Edmonton dentist has to pay $330,000 after patient left with permanent brain damage

Click to play video: 'Retired Edmonton dentist to pay over $300K of cost of investigation in Athwal case' Retired Edmonton dentist to pay over $300K of cost of investigation in Athwal case
WATCH ABOVE: A retired Edmonton dentist is now on the hook for $330,000 after being found guilty of unprofessional conduct. Kim Smith reports – Aug 15, 2018

A retired Edmonton dentist has to pay $330,000 related to the case of a young girl who suffered permanent brain damage following a dentist appointment nearly two years ago.

Amber Athwal was four years old when she was given anesthesia for a dental procedure in September 2016 with Dr. William Mather. She suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed to hospital.

In February, the Alberta Dental Association and College found Mather guilty of unprofessional conduct.

“This is certainly an exceptional case and it’s extremely rare. The magnitude of this is not approached by previous sort of historical events,” Randall Croutze, CEO of the Alberta Dental Association and College, said.

READ MORE: Alberta dentist to learn of possible sanctions in Amber Athwal case

Penalties were handed down at a sanctions hearing held Wednesday in Edmonton. Mather has been ordered to pay $330,000 to cover the cost of the investigation conducted by the college.

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“I’m not aware that there has been a cost recovery of this magnitude. Some of them have been $110,000, that kind of thing. I’m not aware of ones that have been this high in Alberta,” Croutze said.

In addition to the cost recovery, Mather will never be allowed to practice dentistry in Alberta again. Although he retired in October 2017, Mather is not eligible to apply for registration with the Alberta Dental Association and College.

Athwal, who is now six years old, and family members were at the hearing on Wednesday. They’ve been closely following the case.

“This hearing tribunal took this hearing very seriously. The penalty amount, the numbers are very high that they imposed,” Ramandeep Singh, Athwal’s father, said following the hearing.

Singh said his daughter continues to improve. She began speaking about two months ago. This past year, she attended kindergarten and she will be going to grade one in the fall.

“Amber is doing great. She, right now, is learning to walk. She’s learning to speak,” Singh. “The best thing is she can now explain what her needs are.”

Doctors have told the family that Athwal will never fully recover, but Singh said he is hopeful.

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“According to the doctors, it’s not possible but we hope for that.”

READ MORE: Edmonton dentist admits to several charges connected to Amber Athwal case

The Edmonton Police Service is also looking into the college’s report released in February and is consulting with the Crown prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

“At this time, the EPS continues to consult with the Crown to determine if criminal charges are applicable,” said a police spokesperson via email.

A review into the standards of care for sedation practices was already under way prior to the Athwal incident. Croutze said one significant change has already been made since September 2016.

“One of the very first things that was done is we suspended the single operator model for providing dental anesthesia, general anesthesia with dental services at the same time,” Croutze said.

“We’re trying to learn anything that we can from this situation going forward in order to improve safety.”

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