Accused of causing irreversible brain damage in his 4-year-old patient, Dr. William Mather was convicted on Friday of professional misconduct. The Alberta Dental Association and College found that he had committed serious offenses before and after anesthesia.
Amber Athwal had undergone dental surgery under general anesthesia at William Mather’s office in September 2016. She had suffered a cardiac arrest after the procedure and was rushed to hospital undergoing respiratory assistance. She spent several months in the hospital and was able to find, in part only, the use of its members and speech.
Dr. Mather, now retired, faced five charges of professional misconduct. The college opened its trial in October and found him guilty on all five counts.
“Dr. Mather has committed serious violations of his professional and moral duty,” concluded the report by the college.
Amber’s father, Ramandeep Singh Athwal, said his family was satisfied with this judgment. “We are grateful [to the college] for taking our case seriously and helping us find answers,” he said.
“On the other hand, we are heartbroken to know that all this could have been avoided,” added the father.
The college determined that Dr. Mather had failed in his duty:
- to obtain Amber’s parents’ informed consent and to discuss with them the risks and benefits of treatment and general anesthesia;
- to establish whether the girl had drunk and ate before anesthesia;
- to ensure that the anesthetic gases were extinguished before leaving the room;
- to maintain Amber under perfusion during the postoperative phase;
- correctly monitor Amber’s vital signs during and after surgery;
- to ensure that Amber was continuously monitored by a competent and qualified staff member;
- to ensure that a physical examination was conducted, including a pre-anesthetic evaluation.
The college also concluded that Dr. Mather had not responded adequately to the emergency. He did not, for example, call the helpers quickly enough.
“Unfortunately, Dr. Mather and his staff […] were not fully trained or prepared to prevent and manage this medical emergency,” wrote Jack Scott, president of the college court.
The next step will be to decide the penalty against the dentist. The girl’s family sued Dr. Mather for $26.5 million.