8-Year-Old Starves to Death After Developing Fear of Dentist

An 8-year-old girl from England starved to death after developing such a fear of dentists she refused to eat, a court heard.

Sophie Waller died a month after undergoing an operation to remove her baby teeth after she stopped eating or speaking because of pain in one of them.

Doctors decided to remove all eight of her baby teeth so she would not have to undergo repeat operations.

However, Sophie's mother said her daughter was "devastated" when she discovered her teeth had gone and had a long-standing phobia of dentists.

After the operation, Sophie was kept on a feeding tube in the hospital before being discharged on November 17, 2005.

In the days that followed, the 8-year-old continued to refuse solid food and lost more than 20 pounds.

Her parents Janet and Richard, from St. Dennis, England, said they told doctors Sophie was only consuming small amounts of yogurt, fruit and nutritional drinks prescribed by a general practitioner, and were told she would be "okay.”

A week later, Sophie’s parents said she was so emaciated they could see her spine through her back and her hair was falling out.

The couple told the hearing they called the hospital but were told by a nurse not to bring her in as she was now under the care of community child psychologist, Dr. Kerry Davison.

"No one saw her after she was discharged from the hospital,” Janet Waller said. “I told Kerry Davison she was sucking on a watermelon, she told me that was enough for her to survive on."

Sophie died on December 2, 2005, from acute renal failure caused by starvation and dehydration, pediatric pathologist, Dr. Marie-Ann Brundler said.

Brundler said she would have expected a health professional to have noticed Sophie's emaciated state had they seen her before she died.

"This could have easily been avoided, if we could have just gone to the hospital," Richard Waller said.

The investigation into Sophie's death is ongoing.