S'pore boy, 2, swallows toothbrush resulting in 8 weeks' jail for foreign domestic helper

The helper had momentarily turned away from the boy in the shower..

Belmont Lay | March 10, 2021, 11:55 AM

A foreign domestic worker in Singapore was sentenced to eight weeks' jail on March 9 after a child she was looking after swallowed a toothbrush.

The helper, Chi Nar Paw Tan, aged 24, is a Myanmar national.

She had been working for the same family for four years before this incident happened in the employers' Ang Mo Kio flat.

The helper's crime was for a negligent act by failing to remove the toothbrush from the boy's mouth when he was under her care, which led to injuries to the child.

The incident

On Dec. 27, 2020, the helper was tasked to bathe the two-year-old child, CNA reported.

The helper soaped the boy's body with her right hand and held the toothbrush with her left hand.

The child-sized toothbrush was 15cm.

The court heard that the helper then turned her back to the boy momentarily to find the shower head, The Straits Times reported.

While unattended, the loose toothbrush in the boy's mouth somehow became lodged in his throat moments later.

Mother alerted by boy's screams

The boy cried out in pain.

The helper heard the boy shout and turned to see the handle of the toothbrush protruding out of his mouth.

He also vomited blood.

The boy's mother was alerted to the sound of the shouting and called for an ambulance.

Sent to two hospitals

The boy was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The toothbrush bristles was found lodged in the middle of his esophagus.

However, the hospital did not have the necessary equipment to remove the toothbrush, ST reported.

The boy, while drooling and gagging, was referred to KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

The toothbrush was removed with a pair of strong forceps there.

The bristles were caked brown with dried blood, CNA reported.

The boy suffered injuries that included abrasions in his throat and esophagus.

Chi Nar Paw Tan was arrested later that night, ST reported.

The boy was warded and discharged several days later on Dec. 31, 2020.

Fulfilled sentence

The helper told the court during sentencing that she just wanted to go home to her parents as soon as possible, CNA reported.

She had been in remand since December 2020.

This is understood to mean that she has served enough time behind bars to fulfil the eight-week jail term.

Helper alleged that she was abused

During sentencing in court, Chi Nar Paw Tan claimed she was mistreated by the family that employed her.

She said she was beaten by the children in the house until her mouth bled, and was also made to drink urine from a cup provided by another older boy in the family on the instructions of his mother.

The prosecution said this was the first time they had heard of this and the helper was told she could make a police report.

She declined.

The court heard that the helper had told police previously that she was treated well by her employers and was not hurt nor abused.

For causing hurt by a negligent act, she could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to S$2,500, or both.