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British Girl Starved After Teeth Pulled

British Girl Starved After Teeth Pulled

Jill Lawless / AP

February 10, 2009

LONDON — When 8-year-old Sophie Waller cracked a baby tooth eating candy, it set off a chain of events that led to her death.

Sophie had such a fear of dentists that she refused to open her mouth for examination, so doctors at her local hospital took out the tooth in an operation. One of the medical team told a coroner’s inquest that they removed all seven of her other baby teeth at the same time to avoid the need for future procedures.

After the surgery Sophie refused to eat or even open her mouth for her parents, the couple told the inquest. But she was sent home anyway, and starved to death three weeks after the operation.

“No one saw her after she was discharged from hospital,” mother Janet Waller said. “I told (a child psychologist) she was sucking on a watermelon, she told me that was enough for her to survive on.”

The parents said the hospital mishandled Sophie’s follow-up care, referring them to a child psychologist who told them not to worry about Sophie’s plummeting weight. Janet Waller said she also was told to consult her family doctor, who prescribed nutrition drinks over the phone but did not see the girl in person.

Pediatric pathologist Dr. Marie-Ann Brundler said Sophie died at home on Dec. 2, 2005 from kidney failure caused by starvation and dehydration. The inquest was told Sophie weighed 72 pounds (33 kilograms) when she went into hospital and lost a third of that weight before she died.

An official at The Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, 250 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of London, said there had been failures in Sophie’s care, and it had changed its procedures.

“The impact of Sophie’s death has been a wide-ranging impact across all of the disciplines that were involved,” John Ellis, a pediatrician at the hospital, told the inquest. “There have been changes.”

The hospital said it would not comment further until the end of the inquest, which was continuing Tuesday to establish the facts behind the girl’s death.

Janet Waller told the inquest in Truro that Sophie had developed a fear of dentists after her tongue was nipped during a checkup, and had refused to let a dentist look at her loose tooth.

“Because Sophie would not open her mouth for examination, I wanted to eliminate any further dental problems,” Tamsin Hearle, a specialist in pediatric dentistry, was quoted as saying by The Times newspaper.


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  • Joek_max50

    JoeKeller

    about 3 years ago

    52 comments

    This is unbelievable... The doctors acted like they were from the Medieval Age. This is a weird case, but the parents are to blame as well. I talked about this case with one of my friends that works for Nashua dentists. We both agreed that the case described here could have had a happy end. I do not understand how the mother waited for so long until her child died...

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    Alicia123

    over 5 years ago

    2 comments

    IM SORRY, BUT AS SHE WAS A MOTHER TO A 15 & 9 YEAR OLD ASWELL, SHE DID HAVE INSTINCTS, FOR WHATEVER REASON, THE STUPID WOMAN CHOSE TO IGNORE THEM!! AS A FIRST TIME MOTHER MYSELF TO A 2 YEAR OLD, IF SHE WAS EVER SO ILL TO THE POINT OF MALNUTRITION, WILD HORSES COULDNT STOP ME FROM KICKING DOWN THE DAMN DOOR OF THAT HOSPITAL AND BLOODY DEMAND TO SEE A DOCTOR (I MEAN CHRIST, WE PAY ENOUGH TO THE NHS IN OUR WORKING LIFETIME THATS THE LEAST THEY CAN DO!!) BUT I CANT BELIVE THAT MOTHER HAS JUST TAKEN THE REASSURANCE OF THE HOSPTIAL RECEPTIONIST WHO ANSWERS THE PHONE..SHE COULD SEE HER DAUGHTER WASTING AWAY IN FRONT OF HER, FOR GODS SAKE!!!! !!! YES THE DOCTORS ARE TO BLAME FOR NOT DOING THEIR JOBS AS USUAL (JUST LOOK AT TRAGIC THE BABY P CASE)..BUT ONLY A MOTHER KNOWS HER OWN CHILD, AND SHE ALONE IS SOLEY RESONSIBLE FOR THEIR WELLBEING. FEEL SORRY FOR THE POOR COW, AS NO MOTHER SHOULD LOOSE HER CHILD, BUT SHE IS MAINLY TO BLAME FOR SITTING BY WHILST WATCHING HER OWN CHILD SLOWLY KILL HERSELF.

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    Account Removed

    over 5 years ago

    that freaking dentist was insane. removing all her baby teeth was just plane stupid. he was only trying to make his job easier and didn't give a rats ass for that little girl. she was traumatized for sure. and her parents were only following the advice they were given. Whenever patients stand up to doctors they are only shot down anyway so to me it is 85 % the doctors and therapists faults. the parents only 15% because they are not medical experts and could not have suggested a valuable treatment plan such as a feeding tube. gosh darn it. watermelon. SERIOUSLY???? agreed with previous comment. take their licenses away immediately.

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    brownie1

    over 5 years ago

    14 comments

    I cant believe that the parents did not notice a drastic change in their child. It is common sense that humans need nutrition to survive, how did they feel that she was getting enough. She had to also be in pain if all of her teeth were extracted. This seems unreal to me. What was wrong with the parents, what happen to mothers instinct?

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    smschaflePHN

    over 5 years ago

    38 comments

    This is tragic, I agree, but ultimately the responsibility rests with the parents. Why didn't they take her to another pediatrician or the emergency room. If one of my children had lost weight and was refusing to eat, I would have tried everyone and everything.

  • 100_0803_0099_099_max50

    Shaymarie87

    over 5 years ago

    4 comments

    The poor sweet thing. Eight years old, a deathly fear of dentists and having all your teeth removed because of it. It's no wonder she wouldn't open her mouth, she thought she'd lose something else. What's even more heartbreaking is that it has taken three years before anyone has really done anything. My heart goes out to her parents. I could never imagine losing a child so tragically.

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    cxg174

    over 5 years ago

    50 comments

    This is tragic, but only the parents were truly aware of the magnitude of the situation. When I was 7- I refused to eat after a tonsillectomy and went to about 40 lbs. They threatened me with a feedng tube and I finally started to eat again. It was a very traumatic event for me and I responded with anorexia. I remember it clearly. Too bad this child did not get the help she needed to overcome her fear.

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    Account Removed

    over 5 years ago

    The dentist and doctors should lose their licenses for neglecting the child, especially when the parents were pleading for help. Where is their compassion?

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    gingerbread2735

    over 5 years ago

    6 comments

    hey is this for real or i am dozing.what is really going on around us is this end time or down right carelessness .

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    laura_m

    over 5 years ago

    20 comments

    If that were my child, I would not have stopped hounding every doc until my child was seen..even if I had to exaggerate the story further. As a parent, you do what it takes....

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    Account Removed

    over 5 years ago

    Welcome to socialized medicine! And this is what most Americans want? Unbelievable.

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    kristp

    over 5 years ago

    2 comments

    This is a telephone triage and continuity of care issue. Someone had to recognize this problem and get this child seen...

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    Account Removed

    over 5 years ago

    NOw, I wish that I had not read this article.

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    raymoss1

    over 5 years ago

    220 comments

    DId anyone think of a temporary feeding tube? How sad for that little girl.

  • Austinnurse12a_max50

    AustinNurse12

    over 5 years ago

    94 comments

    Oh how sad! This girl didn't just need to be taken to the ER - she needed help from a mental health professional!

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