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Alberta Dental Association and College responds to Amber Athwal investigation

Amber Athwal on her fourth birthday Jan. 7, 2016.
Amber Athwal on her fourth birthday Jan. 7, 2016. Supplied to Global News

The president-elect of the Alberta Dental Association & College (ADA&C) had an emotional response to the investigation into a four-year-old Edmonton girl who suffered brain damage after she was given a general anesthetic for a dental procedure in September.

On Thursday, Dr. Mintoo Basahti said he understands the frustration of Amber Athwal’s family as they wait for the investigation into their daughter’s case.

“I share the family’s frustration with wanting answers quickly. I would want answers quickly if I was the parents,” Basahti said.

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“But our responsibility as the college and minister of health and even yours as media is to ensure that we don’t let that frustration to want answers quickly to taint the process until the end that we don’t get the right answers.”

READ MORE: Edmonton family says little girl left in coma after dental visit

Four-year-old Amber Athwal is shown in this photo taken in July 2016. Athwal went into a coma following a dental visit in September 2016.
Four-year-old Amber Athwal is shown in this photo taken in July 2016. Athwal went into a coma following a dental visit in September 2016. Supplied by family

Amber’s family said she was left unconscious and in a coma after a visit to a specialist where she was supposed to receive an exam after a routine dental visit. When she met with the specialist, he reportedly told the family she needed work done and that a late cancellation meant they would be able to have the procedure done the same day.

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The family said the specialist asked if Amber ate breakfast and when told yes, they allege he said it was OK and put her under with a general anesthetic. They allege Amber suffered from a lack of oxygen during the procedure and was rushed to hospital.

On Nov. 30, the ADA&C confirmed there was enough evidence for Dr. William Mather, the dentist who treated Amber Athwal, to proceed to a Hearing Tribunal.

Amber Athwal at Christmas 2015.
Amber Athwal at Christmas 2015. Supplied to Global News

READ MORE: Hearing to be held for Edmonton dentist at centre of Amber Athwal case

The ADA&C has commented on the case by phone and email, but Thursday was the first public response to Athwal’s case.

Basahti called the situation a tragedy and choked up when he spoke to reporters, but he noted there’s a structured process for hearings that must be followed.

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“It’s structured in such a way that at the very end when the findings are made there’s no question that they’re accurate and clear,” Basahti said.

“I wouldn’t be standing here as the face of the organization today if I couldn’t say to that family that I have full faith that in the end they’ll get the answers they deserve.”

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The tribunal is made up of three dentists and a member of the public and must put its decision in writing. The ADA&C said it will share the decision if requested.

If Mather is found guilty of unprofessional conduct, the hearing tribunal will then decide on the penalty.