Did a Texas woman really subject her young son to 13 unnecessary surgeries and dozens of pointless doctor’s visits and hospital trips?
According to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, she did. Now, she’s accepted a plea deal that puts her in prison for a six-year sentence. She could have faced 20 years in prison for causing her child serious bodily harm, essentially via “medical child abuse.”
Her attorney, however, maintains that his client was responding to the child’s real medical issues and only neglected to properly attend some doctor-recommended follow-ups. The attorney points to the many medical records, independent doctor evaluations and other indicators that the child was legitimately sick as proof.
Child Protective Services (CPS) workers, however, believe that the mother has a mental illness known as Munchausen-by-proxy. The condition causes people, usually women, to exaggerate their child’s medical needs for attention. Authorities allege that the mother in this case even falsely claimed her child had cancer.
However, the defendant’s statements at her sentencing suggest that maybe there is more to the story. There’s been increasing attention on the fact that “child abuse pediatricians” in Texas have a tremendous amount of power to decide when a child is being medically abused and when they are not — even if they’re not the child’s regular physician. They frequently second-guess other medical experts and tests and use vague, subjective standards to decide when a child is being abused. They may often pass judgment on a case without taking into account the fact that the child has a rare condition or a combination of conditions. They may also ignore the fact that other doctors — not the child’s parent — have guided the child’s medical care.
No doubt there are cases of medical child abuse out there. However, the number of cases of suspected abuse have quadrupled since 2006 — which could indicate that innocent parents are being separated from their children without cause.
Is this woman’s case one of those? It’s hard to say. Her guilty plea is legally equivalent to a conviction, but many people take guilty pleas because they’re afraid that if they go to trial and lose, they’ll face a stiffer sentence.
If you’ve been accused of medically injuring your child, get experienced legal help for your defense immediately.