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Medical decisions parents make for their child can affect custody

Child medical abuse allegations have become increasingly common in hospitals across the country. For those in Pittsburgh who have never heard of it, it is a controversial concept that applies to parents who are either preventing their child from receiving necessary care or pushing for care that could harm the child. When a hospital worker, such as a nurse or doctor, believes a child's parents are committing child medical abuse, they notify the state. When that happens, child custody comes into question.

One family in Connecticut is currently going through the difficult situation of dealing with child medical abuse allegations.

The family's 15-year-old daughter suffers from mitochondrial disease. After seeing doctors at one hospital for more than a year, the family followed her gastroenterologist to a new one. At the new hospital, however, the staff dramatically changed the girl's treatment without consulting the gastroenterologist. The parents complained that they were not kept informed during the decision-making process.

The teenager's parents grew frustrated and considered removing her from the new hospital's care. At that point -- and after deciding that the teenager's ailments did not stem from physical causes and that her parents were not giving her the psychiatric care she needed -- the hospital reported the parents to the state for medical child abuse.

The state immediately took over custody of the girl, and the parents have been fighting for the last 10 months to get their daughter back.

Cases like this often stem from controversial diagnoses. However, this case clearly shows how parents' legal custody of their child can be called into question over medical treatment. Pittsburgh parents want what is best for their children, but if the state disputes that, it is important to know that there are ways to fight the allegations and uphold your right to have custody of your child.

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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