Pediatric Child Abuse “Experts” are NOT Experts in Anything
Commentary by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
A common denominator in many of the cases of medical kidnapping that we have covered at Health Impact News is the presence of a Child Abuse Specialist doctor. Time and again we have reported stories where a parent takes a child to a hospital for one reason or another, only to find themselves accused of child abuse by a Child Abuse Pediatrician, even when there are real medical conditions present.
Once that accusation is made, doctors almost universally stop looking for any other explanation for a child’s symptoms, sometimes jeopardizing the health of the child doctors are supposed to be helping. The child is usually separated from his or her parents, and is frequently placed in the care of strangers – a practice that, in itself, is harmful to children.
Parents tend to assume that the doctors are concerned about finding out what is wrong with their child. They do not expect that they may encounter a doctor whose role aligns more with prosecutors and police officers than it does with the practice of medicine.
Defense attorneys in Virginia have recently discovered what could be termed an “unholy alliance” between prosecutors and a child abuse team at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk.
According to the Daily Press, the Virginia attorneys are concerned that:
the agreement — which they learned of only recently — makes CHKD doctors part of the “prosecution team” rather than truly independent experts, which they fear could tip the scales of justice.
The contracted agreement has been in place since at least 2013 in that location. How many other similar contracts exist around the country? Such an agreement could provide a partial explanation for troubling practices that many families have encountered when taking their children to their local children’s hospitals.
See some of our coverage of Child Abuse Specialists:
California Christian Homeschool Family Torn Apart as Children are Medically Kidnapped, Forced into Public School, and Mother is Forced out of Family Home
The Child Abuse Pediatricians are not experts in radiology, orthopedics, neurology, or other specialties in medicine. Yet parents often find that Child Protective Services, attorneys, or their judge are not open to any other medical possibility or diagnosis once the seemingly omniscient and all-powerful Child Abuse doctor has spoken.
Parents who know that they have not hurt their child and that there has to be another explanation often seek out other doctors and medical experts.
A parent may have 6, 8, or as many as a dozen reports from medical experts – even doctors who are renowned in their field of specialty, only to have those reports ignored or minimized by CPS and the court. Many times judges refuse to even look at such reports, choosing instead to take the word of a doctor who is not qualified to make a medical judgement on many conditions.
Families with medically complex children are particularly at risk from such doctors.
These doctors have accused parents of abuse when their child has a condition that is known to mimic abuse, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta, or infantile rickets.
Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome or SIDS may be attributable to other causes, such as vaccine injury, strokes, seizures, prematurity, or pitocin-induced labor. Birth injuries are sometimes missed at the time of birth and then blamed on the parents later. (See link.)
If a parent threatens to take legal action against a hospital or doctor for medical malpractice, it is very common for that parent to be accused of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy or medical child abuse.
According to our research with families of medically kidnapped children, usually within 24 hours of the threat of malpractice being made, CPS is called and the child is seized.
Defense Lawyers, Prosecutors Spar over Hospital’s Agreement to Help Prosecute Cases
Some criminal defense attorneys are crying foul over longstanding agreements between a famed local hospital — Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters — and local police and prosecutors to cooperate on child abuse investigations.
But prosecutors say there’s nothing wrong with the agreements — and that the lawyers’ assertions are baseless.
The deals are between CHKD, a Norfolk-based hospital, and local commonwealth’s attorneys, city attorneys, police and social service agencies from six area cities: Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.
The “memorandums of understanding” have been in existence since at least 2013.
“We, the undersigned agencies … do hereby agree to the continuation of a multidisciplinary team to better investigate, diagnose and prosecute cases of child maltreatment,” according to the agreements between Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and the other entities. The teams, coordinated through CHKD, also agree to “exchange information” as part of the investigations.
The Agreement Explains Things
Deputy Newport News Public Defender David Lee contends that the fact that CHKD is working so closely with prosecutors helps explain things.
“You kind of get the sense that this organization has one thumb on the scales of justice,” he said. “For a long time I’ve been brooding over the fact that whenever CHKD doctors testify in court, in very, very ambiguous factual circumstances, they nevertheless consistently find clear evidence that injuries were inflicted due to abuse — as opposed to accidents, or some sort of underlying medical condition, or some other reason.”
Moreover, Lee asserts that prosecutors had a legal obligation to share the existence of the agreement with criminal defense attorneys before trial. If the lawyers had known about it, he said, they could have attempted to demonstrate in court that CHKD experts are biased.
Child Abuse Doctors – Working for the Prosecution
“People think, it’s CHKD, it’s just for the kids,” Lee said. “The prosecutors who call them as witnesses are cashing in on the goodwill that CHKD has created. … Because people don’t know. When the prosecutor calls them (to the stand), they don’t say they are a CHKD doctor who signed an agreement with prosecutors to prosecute people. The jurors just know it’s a CHKD doctor.”
Another veteran defense attorney, J. Ashton Wray Jr., also contends the agreements mean that CHKD is “part of the prosecution’s team.”
“That’s the shameful thing about this — they are being offered as almost independent experts,” Wray said. “So you want to ask the jurors, ‘Do you understand that the witnesses that CHKD has here are not as independent as (true) independent witnesses?’ … That’s what’s not been revealed to juries. It will be now.”
A third defense lawyer, Ron Smith, said he’s long sensed that CHKD experts come to court with a seeming stake in the outcome, more so than many state medical and forensics experts who testify.
“Their witnesses do come to court advocating a position,” Smith said of CHKD. “They don’t just come to court just looking at the facts. They advocate with the commonwealth. … That’s always been my experience, and I think that’s a common experience.”
Newport News Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Ruth Burdge attempts to minimize the concerns of the defense attorneys:
“To me, this is just silly,” Burdge said. “We’ve got people dying, and somebody’s going to try to paint a bad light about something that’s done to just help children. … This is what people want to make a big deal about?”
Read the full article at the Daily Press.
Ethics Concerns in Child Abuse Investigations
The defense attorneys in Virginia are not alone in questioning the ethics of the Child Abuse Specialist doctors as essentially law enforcement officers masquerading as doctors.
George J. Barry and Diane L. Redleaf of the Family Defense Center in Chicago, Illinois, published a 115 page paper in 2014 in which they raised similar concerns.
In “Medical Ethics Concerns in Physical Child Abuse Investigations,” the authors point out that these doctors essential become interrogators:
Where a child is held by a hospital ER staff or by nursing staff while his or her parents are being separately questioned about the child’s injuries, often behind closed doors and in an accusatory manner, important elements of a detention are present.
When the social worker or physician who is doing the questioning promptly reports the parent’s statements to the police and child protection agencies, concerns about that detention being coercive are obvious.
When the questioning also occurs without any notification of rights, without disclosure that the information is being sought pursuant to a state-funded contract, and with the added possible elements of lack of food and sleep and parental worry about the injured child’s condition, the questioning that might appear to the medical community to be benign and well-intentioned is readily perceived by the person being questioned as a coercive interrogation under detention….
In this regard, persons held “involuntarily” fall within the AMA definition of “detainee.”
Child Abuse “Experts” – NOT Experts in Anything
As we have pointed out many times at Health Impact News, the Child Abuse Specialist doctors are not specialists in many areas that are necessary in order to differentiate between legitimate medical conditions and child abuse. The Family Defense Center points out that doctors are increasingly admonished in the child abuse pediatrics literature to defer to the wiser judgement of the Child Abuse Specialist. However:
A physician who is not a child abuse pediatrician may wonder how child abuse pediatricians can possibly claim a superior ability to draw conclusions as to whether a bone fracture or subdural hematoma is due to child abuse, especially if superiority of child abuse pediatrician’s opinion over that of orthopedists, neurosurgeons and radiologists is claimed (as it has been in many Illinois cases on which the Family Defense Center has worked).
Because many different areas of medicine come into play in the determination of whether a particular injury is the result of abuse, a child abuse pediatrician cannot credibly claim to be expert in all of them.
Hence, using the term “Child Abuse Expert” for a medical doctor, is really an oxymoron. The doctor typically holds no other medical specialty, and the people trained to find abuse of children are law enforcement officers and detectives, trained in forensic science, not medical science. Child Abuse Experts are not trained in forensic science or law enforcement.
So they really are not “experts” in anything.
For more information, see:
Finding “Child Abuse” Motivated by Funding, not Actual Abuse
The Child Abuse Specialist teams at many Children’s Hospitals are funded at least in part by government grants and non-profit organizations. According to Barry and Redleaf:
One example of governmental funding would be the Multidisciplinary Pediatric Education and Evaluation Consortium [MPEEC] arrangement in Illinois.
In Kentucky, the Pediatric Forensic Medicine team at the University of Louisville was created with a grant from Kosair Charities in 2007 and has been funded in later years with on-going grants from that same non-profit organization. Both of Kentucky’s certified Child Abuse Pediatricians are members of this group.
The MPEEC is a partnership between Child Protective Services in the Chicago area and specific hospitals, including Comer Children’s Hospital and Lurie Children’s Hospital, according to the 2013-2017 Strategic Plan of the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (link here).
The first item listed on the Children’s Advocacy Center action plan is to:
Increase total annual revenue over five years to $8 million
Increase unrestricted annual revenue by 75% to approximately $3 million
The focus of the plan seems to be more about marketing than caring for children. Another point on the action plan is to:
Bring internal stakeholders together around a unified brand promise.
What is a “brand promise” and why is it part of an organization that purports to be about protecting abused children?
A priority for the MPEEC program is to:
serve kids in Cook City; add partner hospital; add allegations [Emphasis added by HIN]
Parents who have encountered social workers and Child Abuse Specialists are likely not surprised about the priority of adding allegations. Numerous parents have told that the workers pad reports with as many allegations as they can come up with, throwing them out in the hopes that “something sticks.”
Many Innocent Parents Accused by Child Abuse Doctors
Only 17% of the allegations against parents are “substantiated” or “founded” according to the 2016 Child Maltreatment Report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Source). This figure, says the Family Defense Center, includes allegations by doctors:
Not only are the substantial majority of Hotline calls deemed to be “unfounded” upon investigation, but there has been a documented 75% rate of error in those indicated findings that are reviewed on appeal.
The Family Defense Center … exonerates nearly 90% of the parents it represents in hearings before the DCFS administrative law judges, including many cases in which child abuse pediatricians have written opinions stating abuse was “more likely than not.”
“Better safe than sorry” reporting may be safe for doctors, but it is not the legal standard and it is not safer for families.
Conflict of Interest Should Be Disclosed
The report asserts that the conflict of interest between the doctors and state should be, as the Virginia defense attorneys claim, fully disclosed to parents if:
the child abuse pediatrician operates under a contract to provide forensic opinions to the state child protection agency and is paid at least in part by the state or by a non-profit child protection organization.
Parents need to be informed:
That the parent has a right to refuse the interview and to decline to give consent to the examination and record review and any refusal will not affect the care and treatment the child receives at the hospital.
Social Workers and Judges Duped by Child Abuse Specialists
Child Abuse Specialists have held themselves out to be THE expert on all things child abuse related. Their papers and statements amount to clever marketing of a particular agenda, squeezing out all competition, whether it comes in the form of actual medical experts or of parents, who just want what is best for their child.
Social workers, attorneys, GALs, judges, and the media have bought their propaganda hook, line, and sinker.
Barry and Redleaf write:
in the rush to establish their expertise, child abuse pediatricians in the MPEEC program have trained DCFS investigators to consider their opinions as to bone fractures and head injuries to be of greater validity than those of subspecialists.
Because of administrative convenience, such exaggerated claims of superior expertise by child abuse pediatricians in determining whether an injury was accidental or inflicted continues to gain acceptance among state child protection agencies who are acting to deprive parents of custody of their children or who are otherwise grossly interfering with family life.
Moreover, judges who ultimately resolve these matters can be persuaded to see beyond the superficial conclusion that the child must have been abused because the child abuse pediatrician says so, but this effort may require both specialized legal representation and the services of medical specialists that are simply not available to all innocent parents.
Shouldn’t Child Abuse Specialists Be Required to Read “Miranda Rights” to Parents?
The authors of the Family Defense Center Paper list a concluding recommendation that:
No Child Abuse Pediatrician should participate in the interrogation of a parent whose child is being held involuntarily at the hospital or in other circumstances that make the parent’s participation less than informed.
The typical doctor/patient relationship does not exist, and the Child Abuse Specialist has essentially assumed the role of investigator or prosecutor.
Countless parents have lost their children or even been incarcerated based on the court testimony of such doctors, even when there is abundant evidence that they are innocent and that their child has a genuine medical condition that the parents did not cause.
If child abuse pediatricians proceed with questioning of a parent, they should fully inform parents about their role in the ensuing law enforcement and child protection investigation including any contracts they have to perform evaluations for third parties.
Parents should not be misled into thinking that they are being asked questions by and providing information to the doctor to aid in the treatment of their sick or injured child when in fact they are being asked questions solely to assist a government-funded investigation into whether their denial of child abuse is credible.
Read the full report by The Family Defense Center here.
Outside of the Corrupt Family Court System, Judges are Increasingly Throwing out Child Abuse Convictions if Opposing Medical Testimony is Not Presented at Trial
While social workers and judges sitting on the bench ruling over child custody matters continue to rely heavily on the reports of Pediatric Child Abuse Specialists, in cases where parents or care givers have been convicted in criminal court of child abuse, judges are increasingly throwing out these convictions or retrying cases where opposing medical testimony was not given that could give other explanations for a child’s medical condition besides abuse diagnosed by a doctor.
The Innocence Project is currently taking on Shaken Baby Syndrome cases where parents and care givers have been convicted of child abuse in all 50 states.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Opens the Legal Door to Retry All Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions
I get about 1 case per day request, and they are nearly 100% rickets cases. It is RARE that I get a normal bone referral, less than 1%.
I am sure I am consulted in less than 1% of all ongoing cases (regarding SBS charges of child abuse).
There are easily 2,000 cases per year of fractures in infants since the 1980s.
50,000 cases is a reasonable estimate. (Source)
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