Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Doctors didn’t spot phobia that led to death of girl, 8

Doctors failed to diagnose a serious psychological condition which led a schoolgirl to starve herself to death, a coroner said yesterday.

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 did not cure the problem.

She died on December 2, 2005, when her kidneys failed due to |dehydration and starvation.

Coroner for Cornwall Dr Emma Carlyon recorded a narrative verdict and said Sophie’s life could have been saved.

“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.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital yesterday apologised to Sophie’s family as her parents, Janet and Richard Waller, said they regretted listening to the advice of health professionals.

“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.”

In a statement, the couple said the three-year wait for the inquest had been an “emotional and distressing time”.

Dr Carlyon said she was pleased all the agencies involved had made changes after their own independent reviews of Sophie’s care and Mrs Waller said she hoped any changes “will hopefully save another child’s life”.

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

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