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Intact and happy families can lose child custody rights

When the topic of child custody comes up, it is almost universally connected to a case in which a mother and father cannot agree on the care and custody of a shared child after a divorce. However, Texas parents should be aware that it is possible for an intact and functioning family to lose their child custody rights, leading to the traumatic removal of a child from his or her home and the need to launch a legal battle to bring their beloved child back into the family's care. As farfetched as this scenario may seem, it has become the reality for numerous families across the nation.

One case that has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent weeks involves a family that has been accused of medical child abuse. The child at the center of the matter is a teenage girl who has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder, a rare genetic problem that can cause a range of medical issues in the heart, gut, brain and muscles. When the family sought emergency medical treatment at a hospital unfamiliar with her current treatment plan, the result was a loss of their child custody rights.

The staff at the new hospital determined that the girl's problems were not physical in nature, but stemmed from a psychological condition. When the parents disagreed with this diagnosis and tried to take the child back to the hospital where she had been treated in the past, the state was called in and the parents reported for medical child abuse. This took place without consultation with the specialists who had been treating her prior to her arrival at the new hospital.

The family has been fighting for the return of their child ever since she was removed from their care and placed in a locked psychiatric ward within the hospital last February. Under court order, she was recently transferred to another facility with a less restrictive atmosphere. However, the parents are at risk of losing their child custody rights for the duration of their daughter's teenage years. The outcome of this case should be of interest to parents in Texas and across the nation, as the matter of medical child abuse could face any parent who disagrees with a medical diagnosis or treatment plan.

Source: The Boston Globe, Teen caught in medical and custody dispute leaves Boston Children's Hospital after 11 months, Neil Swidey, Jan. 18, 2014

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