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Medical abuse and parents’ child custody rights

When most people hear of a Massachusetts child custody dispute, the automatic assumption is that the parties are two parents who cannot reach an agreement on the care and custody of a shared child or children. In reality, challenges to a parent’s child custody rights can come from a variety of sources, and sometimes even from individuals or agencies unfamiliar with the child or family. Such is the case in a well-publicized story in which claims of medical child abuse play a central role.

The case centers on a teenage girl who was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease. She was receiving treatment for the disorder, and her family had been working with doctors at a nearby hospital. However, when they took their daughter in for emergency medical treatment at another hospital, the staff at that facility made the determination that she did not suffer from mitochondrial disease.

The hospital then went on to report the family to the local child protective services department. As a result, the state took custody of the girl, and she has been living within Boston Children’s Hospital for nearly a year as her parents, medical providers and the state fight over what is in her best interests. The case has gone before a court numerous times, and a hearing is scheduled to discuss where the matter will go from this point forward.

The executive director of a non-profit group that supports families dealing with mitochondrial disease told reporters that the disorder is a complex medical scenario. In addition, she relayed that this case is not the first time that a family has lost their child custody rights over a dispute concerning diagnosis or treatment of the disease. For parents in Massachusetts, the story serves as a cautionary tale, and an example of the many ways that parental rights can be challenged.

Source:, Teen In State Custody After Boston Hospital Accuses Parents Of Medical Child Abuse, Deborah Becker, Jan. 10, 2014


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