Maid jailed in Singapore for negligence that led to toothbrush stuck in toddler's throat

Chi Nar Paw Tan was remanded shortly after the offence in December 2020. She was sentenced to eight weeks' jail on March 9, 2021. — pic via AFP
Chi Nar Paw Tan was remanded shortly after the offence in December 2020. She was sentenced to eight weeks' jail on March 9, 2021. — pic via AFP

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SINGAPORE, March 10 — When a foreign domestic worker left her employer’s two-year-old son unattended while he brushed his teeth, the toothbrush became lodged in his throat, causing him to vomit blood.

He was rushed to the hospital and the toothbrush was subsequently removed, leaving him with internal throat injuries.

The maid — Myanmar national Chi Nar Paw Tan, 24 — was sentenced to eight weeks’ jail yesterday. She was remanded shortly after the offence on December 27 last year.

The prosecution reduced her charge from causing hurt to the boy by a rash act to causing hurt by a negligent act. Court documents stated that she had left the boy unattended even though he was under her care.

She pleaded guilty to the charge.

Chi Nar Paw Tan was at home with her 31-year-old employer, the boy and his two older siblings that day.

She complied with her employer’s instructions to bathe the boy in the master bedroom toilet at around 4pm. After undressing him and finding that his diaper was dirtied, she rinsed his body, then turned off the water and decided to brush his teeth.

She took the boy’s child-sized toothbrush, measuring about 15cm in length, and brushed his teeth while soaping him at the same time.

She then turned her back on him, leaving him unattended with the loose toothbrush in his mouth in order to find the showerhead.

She soon heard a shout from behind her and turned around, only to see the non-bristle end of the toothbrush protruding out of his mouth. He was crying and gagging on it, and soon vomited blood onto the toilet floor.

She tried to wipe the blood from his mouth with a towel.

The boy’s mother heard sounds coming from the toilet and went to check on him. When she asked Chi Nar Paw Tan what had happened, the maid replied that the blood came from the boy’s teeth.

The employer probed once more and Chi Nar Paw Tan then pointed out the toothbrush.

The boy was taken in an ambulance to Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s emergency department. Medical personnel there did not attempt to remove it as they did not have the necessary equipment.

After a chest X-ray revealed that the toothbrush head had lodged midway through his oesophagus, the boy was taken to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

While waiting for an operating theatre, he vomited once more. The toothbrush, its bristles caked brown with dried blood, was soon removed with a pair of strong forceps.

A medical report from KKH stated that he had suffered abrasions along the back wall of his throat and oesophagus, going till about 15cm from his upper front teeth.

He was hospitalised for a few days till Dec 31 before being discharged.

In mitigation, Chi Nar Paw Tan — who did not have a lawyer — said that her employer’s children used to beat her. She also alleged that she told her employer this, and he said he would give her S$10 more to “take the beating”.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Ong noted that this was the first time the prosecution had heard of this. Chi Nar Paw Tan had told the police during investigations that the family treated her well, never abusing or hurting her.

DPP Ong added that the maid could lodge a police report if she wanted to, but the maid told the judge that she would not and just wanted to return to Myanmar.

For her offence, she could have been jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$2,500, or penalised with both. — TODAY

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