Autistic girl turned away by B.C. dentist
Sophia Filiatrault, 12, could not sit still and refused to open her mouth
The parents of a girl with autism have filed a human rights complaint against a Chilliwack, B.C., dentist after they were told not to return to the clinic.
Sophia Filiatrault, 12, was considered untreatable by the dental office because she could not sit still and refused to open her mouth.
Paulette Weismiller, Sophia’s mother, said she originally felt lucky to find Dr. Yoon Jai Choi, whose practice and staff specialize in high anxiety cases.
But when she returned for follow-up visits, there was a problem.
"Sophia was nervous being in there, because she was in pain and she doesn't like anyone in her mouth, anyways,” Weismiller said.
An employee of the clinic, "looked at me and just says, ‘I can't do this, the answer is no,’" Weismiller recalled.
"I said, ‘What do you mean? You're done?’ And she said ‘yeah.’"
After this visit ended badly, the dental office wrote a note saying the girl should not be booked again.
The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. says Choi has a right to dismiss a patient.
"In order for there to be a good clinical relationship, there has to be a good relationship between the patient and the dentist,” said Jerome Marburg, registrar at the college.
“And sometimes, through no fault of either parties, that relationship cannot be established."
Autism on the rise
But one autism organization says that policy is outdated.
"Everyone has to be more aware of children with autism,” said Katy Harandi, spokeswoman for the Canucks Autism Network, noting that one in 88 children now have some form of the neurological disorder.
"It's growing very fast. As a doctor or dentist, you will be seeing more cases of children with autism in your office."
Choi declined an on-camera interview, but told CBC News he has other patients with autism whom he’s had no problems treating. He says a severe case like Sophia’s would be better treated either with sedation or by a specialist.
But Sophia's father says that's unreasonable.
"We don't want Sophia to go unconscious every six months for a cleaning for the rest of her life,” said Bernard Filiatrault. “We want her to get used to going to a dentist and getting her teeth cleaned."
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is looking into the complaint. A decision on whether to go to a hearing has not yet been made.
With files from the CBC's Petti Fong