'Dental phobia' led to eight-year-old's starvation

A schoolgirl starved herself to death as the result of an undiagnosed psychological syndrome, a coroner ruled today.

Sophie Waller suffered an apparent extreme dental phobia and refused to eat, sleep or drink after her milk teeth came loose.

The eight-year-old from St Dennis, Cornwall underwent an operation to remove all eight of her milk teeth but this failed to cure the problem and she died on 2 December, 2005.

The coroner for Cornwall Dr Emma Carlyon, who recorded a narrative verdict, said the severity of her condition was not realised and this "prevented her from receiving the medical support that could have prevented her death".



arlyon said: "I find that the cause of death was the result of acute renal failure due to dehydration and starvation.



"Sophie's death was influenced by an underlying, undiagnosed psychological condition.



"The severity of the condition was not realised, this prevented her from receiving the medical support that could have prevented her death."



Dr Carlyon said she would be sending her findings to the local safeguarding children's board.



Sophie's parent's, Janet and Richard Waller, said they regretted listening to the advice of health professionals.



In a statement, the couple said the three year waiting for the inquest was an "emotional and distressing time".



They said: "No words can express how we have felt and still feel.



"Our only regret is that we listened to the advice given to us by professionals and did not follow our own hearts."





Sophie was admitted to hospital on 7 November and underwent the operation to remove her milk teeth two days later.



She was kept in and fed through a drip before being released to go home for a weekend on November 18.



The inquest heard that after she seemed to respond positively at home and after a physical and psychological assessment on 21 November she was officially discharged.



Her notes were then sent to the wrong GP and she was not seen by another medical professional before she died, the hearing was told.



After the verdict, the hospital apologised to the family.



Medical director Dr Ellen Wilkinson said: "Everyone involved in Sophie's care was saddened by her tragic death. We would like to apologise to her family.



"This was a very unusual case. We have conducted a review of her care and are carrying out recommendations."



The inquest, at Truro City Hall, heard Sophie was so emaciated in the days before her death her spine was clearly visible through her skin and her hair was falling out.



The court was told doctors at the Royal Cornwall Hospital failed to properly organise her post-hospital care and when Mrs Waller rang to ask to return her to the ward on 28 Novembershe was referred back to the community clinical psychologist.



Dr Arnon Bentovim, consultant child psychiatrist, said it was an opportunity to save her that was missed.



He told the court: "At the point when the parents phoned the ward, and were clearly anxious enough to do so, had that anxiety been picked up then there would have been an opportunity for the death to be prevented.



"There was a failure to ensure that her ongoing medical care was fully managed and planned.



"There needed to be a joint physical and psychological follow-up; it was optimistic to believe that the initial positive response was necessarily going to mean that this child would make a reasonable recovery."



Dr Bentovim also said it was possible for Mrs Waller to be trying to feed her daughter and not realising she was not swallowing the food.



Dr Charles Holme, consultant paediatrician, said Sophie's situation was so rare and unusual a GP should have been contacted directly and briefed on the case when she was discharged and a care plan set up where she was weighed and checked regularly.



He said: "It would have been easy to have just picked up the phone and spoken to a GP, that was not done.



"This young lady presented in a very unusual way, because of that the GP should have been spoken to on discharge.



"It seemed to me to be an unsatisfactory way of doing things."



He also told the inquest a full psychological assessment of Sophie should have been carried out before the operation to remove all her milk teeth.



He said: "A full assessment was not carried out prior to what was a very major procedure for a small child."



In her conclusion, Dr Carlyon said she was "pleased" all the agencies involved had carried out their own independent reviews and changes were made.



Mrs Waller said she hoped any changes which were implemented "will hopefully save another child's life".



She said: "We have had to live with this since the day Sophie died and will continue to live with it for the rest of our lives."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

    vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

    Nursery Manager

    £100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

    Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

    £24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes