Texas Pathologist Criticizes Child Abuse Pediatricians – Wants Law Put in Place to Protect Parents
Comments by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
NBC News along with the Houston Chronicle is continuing their series in exposing medical kidnapping.
Mike Hixenbaugh and Keri Blakinger recently published an article featuring Dr. Michael Laposata, chief of pathology at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who has a history of helping parents wrongly convicted of child abuse by Child Abuse Pediatricians. See:
Dr. Laposata, along with other Texas doctors and Texas lawmakers, want to see the law changed so that courts do not rely solely on the opinion of a single “Child Abuse” doctor as an expert. They want to require that courts always listen to testimony from other doctors as well.
Laposata said doctors and government officials must acknowledge what is widely known across all fields of medicine: Even good doctors make mistakes. Such errors are so common, researchers estimate that 12 million Americans receive a misdiagnosis every year, sometimes with devastating consequences.
For that reason, Laposata believes that additional medical experts should be consulted at the start of these cases rather than after an abuse diagnosis has already been made.
“It’s so crucial that we get this right at the beginning and not after a child has been wrongly taken from parents, or worse, sent back into a home where he’s being abused,” he said.
Laposata is advocating for a model he piloted a few years ago, when he moved to Texas and assembled a multidisciplinary team to provide free case reviews for parents who believe they’ve been wrongly accused.
As we have been reporting for years here at Health Impact News, Child Abuse Pediatricians are generally not an expert in any other medical field, such as neurology or other specialties, which would allow them to look for other medical reasons that could be misinterpreted as “abuse.” See:
Accusing a parent or caregiver of “child abuse” has not historically been the role of physicians, but law enforcement trained in forensic evidence. But the new pediatric specialty of “Child Abuse Specialist” effectively elevates doctors to a role of prosecutor, even though they do not investigate non-medical evidence to determine “abuse,” such as interrogating the parents and others who are involved in the life of the injured child. Frequently, they do not even consult the family’s pediatrician or family doctor who has a history with the family.
“I think the biggest problem in these cases is that other experts are often not asked to weigh in,” [Laposata] said. “Maybe you’re a pediatrician and you’ve been named to the child abuse group, but you never spent time in coagulation with a child who’s bruised or bleeding. Or in orthopedics or endocrinology with a child with broken bones. Or in dermatology with a child who has skin changes. Experts from all of these disciplines need to be consulted.”
According to the NBC article, other Texas doctors feel the same way.
That sentiment was repeated in more than a dozen messages from pediatric subspecialists who contacted NBC News and Chronicle reporters in recent weeks with stories of patients who they said were diagnosed as victims of abuse by a hospital child abuse team despite what they believed was evidence to the contrary.
Dr. Gary Brock, a pediatric orthopedist who’s been working at the Texas Medical Center in Houston for 29 years, said he’s seen doctors report children with broken bones as confirmed victims of abuse despite strong evidence, in his opinion, that the injuries were not inflicted.
“There’s very few injuries we can look at and say, ‘That’s definitely child abuse,’” Brock said. “So for a pediatrician to say that, who has little training in radiology or in orthopedics, it should be mandatory that they have a second opinion from a specialist.”
“I would really stress that everybody wants to get it right, and the safety of the child is absolutely foremost,” Brock said. “But in circumstances where at least half the time we can’t tell the difference between accidental trauma and non-accidental trauma, multiple opinions are mandatory, not optional.”