200 patients accuse Shoreline dentist of malpractice

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on July 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 13 at 10:54 PM

Cheryl Grant was desperate to find a dentist when she walked into a Shoreline clinic more than 20 years ago. 

"I thought it was worth a try to just walk into a dentist office and say, 'here I am and here are my two girls,'" said Grant, now 55.

At the time Grant was a single mother on welfare. 

"I had called several dentists and asked if they would take our medical coupons," said Grant, "and nobody would."

But Dr. Henri Duyzend said he would accept Grant and her daughters as patients.

"I was relieved, excited, inspired," said Grant.

Grant would spend hours in Duyzend's dental chair over the years.  She said she was religious about getting regular cleanings and it was at those appointments that Dr. Duyzend would often use an instrument called a "vitality scanner" to judge whether the roots of her teeth were healthy.

"If I didn't feel it, he would turn it up and then there were a couple of times he would say, 'can you feel it now?  How about now? 'And then all of a sudden he would go 'oh yeah'", Grant said.

Grant said she quickly learned 'oh yeah' meant one thing -- she needed a root canal.  She said it seemed odd because she never had any pain or other symptoms.

"I did question and say, would ask, 'How come I need to have another one?'"

Grant said she remembers saying, "I'm going to stop coming in for my check-ups, because every time I do, I need to have a root canal."

But Grant said she trusted her dentist and kept getting those root canals until she'd had 13.

"I remember many, many times him telling me how he was doing such a great job and I'd have my teeth for the rest of my life," she said.

An x-ray of Grant's mouth shows very few of her teeth were untouched by either crowns, root canals, or both.  All of the work was expensive, and even after Grant moved off public assistance and got private insurance, the bills mounted.

"I was always chasing this huge dental bill that I could never quite keep up to," Grant said.

In 2007 Duyzend retired and sold his practice.  Grant said she wanted to repay the dentist she considered a good friend, so she refinanced her house to pay the $3,300 she still owed. 

"I was happy to do it," Grant said.

But when Grant went to see the dentist who'd bought Duyzend's practice, Dr. David To, he questioned why she'd had so many root canals.

"The light came on really fast for me at that point and I said, 'What about the other patients?' And he said, 'Yes, the other patients, without exception, have had too many root canals done," Grant said.

According to a sworn affidavit filed in court, Dr. To reviewed nearly every patient chart after a trail of people showed up with pain from failing root canal treatments done by Duyzend.  To concluded that many of the procedures were unnecessary and that Duyzend had done "fraudulent root canals" on almost every patient.  To also wrote that most of the root canals were "underfilled," which can cause injury to patients.

Grant said she is now undergoing painful corrective procedures including "extraction and bone grafting and oral surgery."

Grant is also suing her former dentist. She's one of more than 200 patients who've filed malpractice claims against Henri Duyzend. 

"Not only did he take their money, because like any con man he stole money," said Seattle attorney Mike Wampold, who represents 29 of Duyzend's former patients. "He would do work that was not necessary and was done negligently, and so now these people have spent thousands of dollars with a dentist and all they're left with is a mouth full of problems."

Dr. Duyzend wasn't home when KING 5 knocked on his door, and he didn't return our phone call. But his attorney, John Versnel, III, did contact us. Versnel is defending Duyzend against the malpractice claims.

Asked if Duyzend did unnecessary procedures, Versnel responded, "Absolutely not."  Asked if Duyzend did bad dentistry, Versnel said, "No.  He didn't." 

Then why so many complaints? Versnel said: "That's a good question. That's a very good question and that will be borne out in the litigation."

Versnel said Duyzend practiced dentistry for decades with no complaints and is shocked by the accusations.

"He cares quite a bit about his patients and this has been very tough on him," said Versnel.

Grant said she never saw Duyzend after he retired but has thought about what she would say to him:  "Shame on you.  Shame on Henri Duyzend," she said.

She said she hopes the next time they meet will be in a courtroom.

Forty-eight of the patients who filed malpractice claims against Duyzend have settled with his insurance company, according to the Washington State Department of Health.  Spokesman Donn Moyer said that Duyzend voluntarily surrendered his license in 2010.

"We required as a condition of the surrender that he never practice dentistry again in Washington," Moyer said. 

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