Florida dentist accused of abuse, fraud in treatment of young patients

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

CNN filed its “Nightmare Dental Procedures Done on Kids” report under “Stories that Shock,” along with tabloid-worthy accounts of a child being dragged by her school bus and a woman kidnapped after responding to a personal ad on Craiglist.

The piece opens with the surreptitiously recorded sounds of instruments whirring and a child wailing, then shifts to a scene on a public sidewalk in Jacksonville, Fla., where angry protesters have gathered outside the office of a 78-year old pediatric dentist, Howard S. Schneider.

A mother, Brandi Motley, tells CNN reporter Victor Blackwell what everyone is so upset about. She says she brought her 6-year-old daughter Bri’el to Schneider to have one tooth extracted only to get the child back three hours later, bloody and frightened and missing seven teeth.

“She takes her gauze out and all her teeth were gone,” the mother said.

Motley said she got no action when she complained to local police, so she posted her allegations on Facebook. The story went viral.

It turned out other parents said their children had also suffered unnecessary procedures and abuse at the hands of the dentist. He is now being sued for malpractice and battery by a number of former patients.

Adding to Schneider’s problems, since many of the children he has treated were Medicaid beneficiaries he’s also been accuse of fraud. He made nearly $4 million from the program in the past five years, according to state records cited by CNN and other news outlets. The Florida Attorney General’s office has announced it is launching a criminal Medicaid fraud investigation.

Schneider denied all wrongdoing when confronted by the CNN reporter in the parking lot of his office.

But on May 24, First Coast News (FCN) in Tampa Bay reported Schneider had closed his office and given up his license.

“A Jacksonville dentist who is under investigation by the State Attorney General after several claims of abuse has relinquished his medical license, according to the Florida Department of Health,” the station reported.

Court documents shown in the FCN report indicate that Schneider has faced such accusations before.

A 1995 complaint against the dentist claimed that Schneider unnecessarily placed 16 crowns in the mouth of 3 year old boy. The mother of the child, Amy Brown sued for $15,000. Court documents show the case was settled a year later for $7,500, FCN reported.

Brown told FCN she did not know Schneider was still practicing. “I thought he had been shut down,” she said. Protesters told reporters that now that Schneider’s office is closed, their goal is to get his license revoked.

On May 29, the Florida Board of Dentistry voted to accept Schneider’s voluntary relinquishment of his dental license, FCN reported.

“Our charge is to protect the citizens. When you see things going on like you witnessed, we did what we had to do and we’re glad to get it done,” the board’s chair William Kochenour noted.

Jacksonville Attorney Gust Sarris, who represents nearly 50 victims who claim to have suffered from abuse and unnecessary procedures at the hands of the dentist had this to say:

“We are pleased to know that Dr. Schneider will no longer be practicing in Florida. However, the removal of his license will not impact the ongoing criminal and civil investigations, and we will continue to peruse all available actions to see that justice is done for all of his victims.”

The story comes as a reminder of the powerful role that social and news media can play in bringing claims of malpractice to light.

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