Heather Frans

Name: Heather Frans
Died: February 1, 1994
Age at death: 19
Cause of death: Codeine overdose, suffocation, or both
Location: Hutchinson, Kansas, USA

Details:
Heather Frans had always had trouble with dental care; her mouth was very sensitive and she couldn’t tolerate anything touching her gums. As a result, visiting the dentist was difficult for Heather.

On the day of her death, Heather was given a large dose of codeine to “keep her calm” before a visit to the dentist. She weighed only forty pounds, and codeine in toxic doses is known to cause respiratory problems.

Heather’s dentist was known to use a conditioning technique known as “Hand over mouth”, which is supposed to be used to quiet a yelling child in a dentist’s chair (the dentist places a hand over the child’s mouth until the child quiets and is able to listen). This technique can be dangerous if the dentist also obstructs the child’s nose in some way, and doing so is abusive and illegal. Heather’s dentist insists that he did not use this technique on her when she was in his office. The only people present at the time were his own staff–two of whom were pinning Heather to the dentist’s chair and a third who was cleaning her teeth.

When Heather’s lips turned blue and they realized she had stopped breathing, the dentist called emergency services and began artificial respiration. However, the EMT put the breathing tube into Heather’s esophagus instead of her windpipe. Heather suffocated.

In the ensuing investigation, it was determined that Heather had been given an overdose of codeine by her father. The dentist was cleared of all charges, as it could not be determined that he had done anything to endanger Heather’s life.

References:
FRANS v. GAUSMAN
Hutchinson dentist cleared in death of autistic patient
AVERSIVE CONDITIONING-HAND OVER MOUTH – EXERCISE (HOME)

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