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Parents fight the state in a heated child custody dispute

Maryland parents are likely to find the following case disturbing. Imagine your teenage daughter experiencing a range of serious medical issues for over a year. A specialist has been treating her with some success, and has diagnosed her as having a rare set of genetic disorders. One night, after she begins suffering from severe symptoms, you rush her to an emergency room; the specialist who has been treating her suggests that you take her to a different hospital than the one where she has been seen, due to the fact that her gastroenterologist recently moved there. Just days later, the state moves in, claiming that you are abusing your own daughter, and a long and terrible child custody dispute begins.

The story is almost impossible to believe, but one family is currently fighting to regain custody of their daughter after a state's child protection agency took emergency custody of the girl. She is currently being housed in a psychiatric ward against the will of her parents. After seeking medical treatment at a new hospital, the girl's established diagnosis came under debate, and doctors who have worked on her case are now at odds over whether her condition is physical or psychological.

For the girl's parents, the last year has been a nightmare, one that began with the girl's deteriorating health and ended with her removal from their custody. The parent have fought hard for the ability to return to the treatment regimen that was in place, but new doctors involved in the case disagree with that course of action. At least one of the girl's previous physicians has been working to advocate for the girl, and has asked the hospital where she is being held to hold a roundtable meeting to determine what steps should come next for the family. Unfortunately, these requests have been ignored.

There are no words that can adequately express the anger, fear, frustration and sense of loss that this child's parents and three sisters must feel. Their fight is not over; judge recently ruled that a court investigator would look into the family's case. For Maryland families, it is important to understand that this incredible child custody dispute is just one of many similar cases taking place across the nation, as courts work through the complex issue of medical child abuse.

Source: The Boston Globe, No release for Conn. teen caught in hospital dispute, Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen, Dec. 21, 2013

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