Edmonton dentist guilty of unprofessional conduct in Amber Athwal case, college rules

Amber Athwal posed with her mother, Arshinder Kaur, for this photograph taken in June 2017. (Zoe Tadd/CBC)

An Edmonton dentist whose four-year-old patient suffered a permanent brain injury is guilty of failing to provide appropriate care during treatment in his office that involved anesthesia, the Alberta Dental Association and College has ruled.

In a scathing report released Friday that runs more than 90 pages, the college ruled that Dr. William Mather was guilty of the main charges levelled against him under the Health Professions Act.

His patient, Amber Athwal, was given anesthesia in Mather’s dental office in September 2016 but suffered cardiac arrest after treatment. She was rushed to hospital and immediately put on life support. She spent months in hospital, and in the time since, has recovered some use of her arms and legs and some ability to talk.

Mather, who has since retired, was charged with five counts of unprofessional conduct plus a number of other administrative infractions. The college held a tribunal hearing in October and found him guilty or partially guilty on all five of the main charges.

The tribunal issued its findings Friday, ruling the facts proved that Mather:

Failed to obtain informed consent from Amber’s parents, including "failing to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment and general anesthesia" Failed to establish Amber’s "NPO status," including time of last food and drink. NPO is an acronym for the Latin phrase nil per os, which means "nothing through the mouth." Failed to ensure that anesthetic gases were turned off before leaving the operation room. Failed to maintain Amber’s IV during her post-treatment recovery Failed to properly monitor Amber’s vital signs during and after treatment Failed to ensure that Amber was continuously monitored by "competent and qualified recovery room personnel Failed to ensure that a physical examination was completed, including the pre-anesthesia assessment

The tribunal also ruled that after Amber slipped into a coma in the recovery room, Mather’s response to the emergency, including his resuscitation effort, was inadequate.

It ruled that Mather’s office did not call 911 quickly enough and did not immediately use an emergency resuscitation cart.

The next step in the hearing will be the sanction phase, where the tribunal will decide which orders, or penalties, Mather will face.

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