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Teen in child custody struggle to be discharged from hospital

It can be easy to find yourself emotionally involved in a legal case you hear about and feel you relate to in any aspect. Child custody cases often have an added element of empathy and emotions since the center of attention is placed on our most vulnerable and beloved members of society, our children. It's often difficult to see a youth separated from his or her parents.

St. Louis residents may be familiar with a case in which a teenager is the subject of a high-profile custody dispute. A judge in juvenile court recently decided that she will be transferred out of the children’s hospital, where she has resided for the better part of a year, and into a residential facility. Once there she will be assessed to determine how she fares outside of the hospital environment.

The case started when a medical center and a children's hospital disagreed as to whether the child's condition was caused by psychiatric or physical problems. A medical center had been treating the teenager for mitochondrial disease, which affects how her cells create energy. Her mother then took her to the children’s hospital for further evaluation. After a few days at the children's hospital, the medical staff believed that the child's symptoms were caused by psychological complications.

After rejecting the diagnoses, the parents attempted to move her out of the care of the hospital and back to the medical center.

The dispute was quickly labeled as medical child abuse. Medical child abuse occurs when parents interfere with the medical care of their children or push for superfluous or damaging treatment options. The state was then made the temporary guardian of the child, and she was left in the care of the hospital.

Although the people in this story are from Massachusetts, parents in Missouri should certainly be made aware of cautionary tales such as these, especially if they have a child being treated for any physical or psychological ailments. Different jurisdictions have varying laws on child custody and every parent must know their rights when it comes to their child. Not familiarizing yourself with the law in situations where someone seeks to retract your rights as a parent can have disastrous consequences.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Teen in custody battle to be moved from hospital,” Patricia Wen and Neil Swidey, Jan. 11, 2014

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