Father of Amber Athwal welcomes hearing for Edmonton dentist

A hearing has been set for Dr. William Mather, the Edmonton dentist charged with unprofessional conduct after administering a general anesthetic to four-year-old patient Amber Athwal, who suffered a permanent brain injury.

The hearing will commence Oct. 16, the Alberta Dental Association and College said Thursday. It is scheduled for three weeks, said Sarah Van Tassel, communications director with the association and college.

In an interview, Amber's father Ramandeep Singh said the family welcomes the hearing.

"We are pleased that the hearing has been scheduled and are hoping that this process will bring the answers that we are looking for," Singh said.

"For justice for Amber we can do anything. We are prepared for this long hearing."

The hearing is being held under the Health Professions Act. Nothing in the legislation prevents a family from having standing at the hearing, Van Tassel said.

Members of the public can attend but the hearing tribunal can close a portion or all of the hearing at any time.

Singh said the family is considering bringing Amber to the hearing.

"We will see," he said. "If Amber's condition gets more stable, then definitely we will, so the people present there at the hearing, and Dr. Mather, and the panel doctors, can see what is the condition of Amber."

The dental association started an investigation immediately after Amber's Sept. 7 visit to Mather's downtown dental office.

The girl stopped breathing at some point during the visit and was rushed to the Stollery Children's Hospital.

She was later moved to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital but is now living at home again with her family. She is in a wheelchair and her father said she "cannot control any part of her body."

Amber has episodes of screaming that a neurologist has been unable to explain, her father said.

"Every day, every moment when we see her screaming, agitating, we can't control our emotions."

The screaming is not believed to be related to pain, he said.

"It's maybe because something is going on in her mind, or an anxiety or something. We don't know."

In November, the dental association and college said the case would go to a hearing.

"The ADA&C appreciates this is a high-profile case and people are looking for answers," Dr. Randall Croutze, CEO of the dental association and college, said in a November news release.

"The hearing tribunal is the next step in the process to find those answers."

In February, the girl's family filed a statement of claim against Mather and eight staff members who were on duty that day, seeking a total of $26.5 million in damages, plus costs.

Mather continues to practice, Van Tassel said.