Charges dropped against dentist in boy's death

SANTA ANA, Calif. - An involuntary manslaughter charge has been dropped against a dentist in connection with the death of a 4-year-old after prosecutors found the boy had a heart condition.

Javier Villa stopped breathing in the dentist's chair during a routine visit to have cavities filled last Aug. 4, 1997.

Dr. Gabriella Thanh-Ngoc Pham was accused of gross negligence in the child's death, but prosecutors dropped the charge after it was revealed the boy had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.

''Our expert found that this child basically could have died at any time from this condition. He could have died on the way to the dentist,'' Orange County district attorney spokeswoman Tori Richards said Monday.

Ms. Pham's attorney, Jennifer Keller, said ''This is a case that should have never been filed.''

But Ms. Pham's ordeal is not over. In March, the Board of Dental Examiners has scheduled a hearing to decide whether to revoke Ms. Pham's license.


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