If you follow Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers on social media, you will have noticed an influx in news regarding Duncan Embury, the head of our team of medical malpractice lawyers. Duncan is currently representing Amber Athwal who, at five years of age, suffered brain damage while under general anaesthetic at an Edmonton dental practice. Here’s what you need to know about the case.


Amber and her father, Ramandeep Singh, visited Dr. William Mather’s dental practice for a consultation on September 7, 2016, at around 9:30 am. Mather told Singh that he could perform the operation that day thanks to a cancellation.

Amber was sedated without incident around 11 am, and the procedure progressed normally. After completing the procedure, Dr. Mather left the room to check on other patients. Soon after, Amber stopped breathing. Mather and nurse Tasneem Ali tried and failed to resuscitate her, and eventually called 911. An ambulance arrived and rushed Amber to Stollery Children’s Hospital where she was placed on life support.

The event left Amber with a permanent brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. She is unable to walk. Where she once spoke Punjabi and English, her ability to communicate is now limited to one or two words.

Dr. Mather is facing five charges, including unprofessional conduct under the Health Professions Act.

Alberta Dental Association and College hearing

In late October, 2017, Alberta’s Dental Association and College (ADA&C) heard testimony from witnesses to the event. Dr. Mather pleaded guilty to three of the five charges against him, and admitted to several instances of wrongdoing, including failure to provide Amber with proper care when she stopped breathing; failure to immediately call 911; inadequate attempts at resuscitation; and failure to immediately access a crash cart.

“It’s devastating,” Dr. Mather told the hearing on October 23. “You’re always thinking about it. It’s just a young girl.”

Prior to the hearing, the ADA&C asked Dr. Scott Paterson, an accomplished anesthesiologist in Alberta, to review evidence and come to some conclusions on the actions of Dr. Mather and his team. His testimony at the hearing revealed extensive wrongdoing: in estimating that Amber was left unattended for up to seven minutes before suffering cardiac arrest, Dr. Paterson said the crisis “should have been recognized, should have been avoided.”

“Chances are, this was a basic airway obstruction that started the whole process,” he said, per the CBC. “It was not recognized, not treated. That deteriorated into cardiac arrest.”

“It’s something that can’t be missed,” he continued. “Even if there was dead silence, there would be visual cues because the patient would be struggling to breathe. The chest would be heaving but there would be no air. They’re being choked.”

Dr. Paterson also questioned whether the procedure should have been initiated at all considering Amber ate breakfast just two-and-a-half hours earlier, well within the necessary six-hour wait time for administering an anaesthetic.

“That’s inappropriate,” Dr. Paterson testified. “It’s not keeping with any anaesthetic care or guideline. It’s putting a child at risk and it’s dangerous.”

Civil litigation

While the tribunal hearing progresses, the coinciding civil litigation is in its earliest stages. As medical malpractice lawyers understand, malpractice lawsuits can take many years to play out. However, Neinstein’s Duncan Embury believes Amber deserves justice.

“[The civil lawsuit] is really in its early stages,” Embury told Edmonton AM’s Mark Connolly. “The next step is to understand what Amber’s needs are going forward and make sure those are fully protected and certainly her rehabilitative care is maximized.”

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today

If you have been the victim of medical or dental malpractice, contact Neinstein’s team of experienced medical malpractice lawyers today to learn how we can help you access justice. We believe that injury victims deserve compensation to help them get their lives back on track.

Greg Neinstein