Dentist, nurse respond to $26M Amber Athwal lawsuit, allege pre-existing condition

The downtown Edmonton office of dentist Dr. William Mather. Kendra Slugoski, Global News

The dentist named in a lawsuit filed by the Athwal family is denying negligence led to five-year-old Amber suffering brain damage. Dr. William Mather alleges any injuries she sustained after being put under general anaesthesia happened because the family didn’t disclose Amber’s full medical history or exactly what she ate and drank before the procedure.

Amber’s family said they’re “deeply troubled” by what the dentist is alleging in their case.

“We are upset and hurt by these statements which serve to further victimize Amber and our family,” her father Raman Athwal said over the phone from India.

“The simple fact is that we placed our trust in Dr. Mather and his staff and fully expected that he had the training and experience to safely perform the dental procedures that he recommended.”

Athwal went on to say they stand by their statement of claim and remain confident justice will be served.

Story continues below advertisement

On Sept. 7, 2016 Amber Athwal was rushed to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton after undergoing a dental procedure at Mather’s downtown office. Athwal went from being a healthy, functional then-four-year-old to being unable to talk, walk or recognize her parents.

READ MORE: Family of brain-damaged Edmonton girl suing dentist for $26.5M 

The Athwal family filed a lawsuit last month, suing Mather and eight members of his staff for $26.5 million in damages.

The lawsuit claims Amber suffered “profound neurological injuries” after being deprived of oxygen. The lawsuit claims while in recovery, a nurse noticed Amber was not breathing, she did not have a heart rate and her oxygen saturation level was zero. The lawsuit said a nurse noticed this about 20 minutes after the surgery ended and Amber was placed in recovery. The lawsuit claims about 15 minutes later, another person at the clinic called 911.

READ MORE: Dental sedation expert ‘frustrated beyond imagination’ over anesthesia rules

The statement of claim alleges no one in the office was making efforts to provide ventilation when EMS arrived five minutes later, when Amber was still unresponsive and not breathing. She was treated on scene and taken to the Stollery, where she was diagnosed with a hypoxic brain injury.

“It has impacted us in every aspect,” Raman said on Feb. 21. “We stopped working since the day it happened and we are always with Amber now at her bedside. We are helping her in her recovery, doing cognitive things.

Story continues below advertisement

“We want her to recover fully and whatever her needs are, we want to fulfil them. Whatever her treatment needs are, we don’t want the money thing to hinder that process or stop that process.”

READ MORE: Amber Athwal case compels Alberta mother to speak out about son’s dental death: ‘I don’t want him forgotten’

In a statement of defence, Mather and his business “deny that they were negligent or in breach of any duty or in breach of any contract.” It also states that if any injuries were sustained, they were not caused by any dentistry services performed or provided.

“The care given to the plaintiff, Amber… was at all times careful and appropriate in the circumstances and met the standard of care reasonably expected of a general dentist and registered dental assistant.”

Court documents filed by Mather’s lawyer claim that Amber’s family could be considered guilty of “contributory negligence” including “failing to provide a proper medical history… to Mather and/or his staff and failing to provide accurate information to Dr. Mather and/or his staff regarding the food and beverages consumed by [Amber] prior to the dental extractions.”

READ MORE: Edmonton dentist breaks silence after little girl suffers brain damage

The statement of defence also denies the plaintiffs have suffered the injuries outlined in their statement of claim and says, if they have, “those injuries or damages are solely or partially as a result of… Amber’s pre-existing medical and dental condition.”

Story continues below advertisement

Registered nurse Tasneem Ali also provided a statement of defence, denying she was negligent and that her care of Amber was “at all times reasonable, skillful, careful and proper in every respect.”

Court documents say if any injuries were sustained, they were not the result of the nurse’s negligence or omission, but due to the family not sharing “relevant information concerning what Amber had consumed in the time period before her attendance at the clinic, failing to disclose relevant details of Amber’s medical history and failing to disclose other relevant information.”

Both parties want to see the lawsuit dismissed with costs.

Mather will be sent before a tribunal to determine if he is guilty of unprofessional conduct. The Alberta Dental Association & College (ADA&C) set the hearing for Oct. 16 at 9 a.m.

None of the allegations made in these legal documents have been proven in court.