What Exactly Is Medical Child Abuse?
Medical Child Abuse occurs when a parent uses doctors, hospitals, or any extension of the medical profession to the detriment, rather than to the benefit, of a child. In the past, Medical Child Abuse (MCA) was commonly and frequently referred to as “Munchausen By Proxy.”
Munchausen By Proxy is the idea that a parent seeks to gain attention for themselves by attempting to find medical treatment for their children to care for exaggerated or fabricated health problems. Very often, this results in unnecessary medical visits, unnecessary hospital stays, and unnecessary medical procedures.
Victims of Medical Child Abuse frequently are initially diagnosed with a “failure to thrive,” because they are frequently underweight, have red or white blood cell issues, and have other problems with blood or hemoglobin. This failure to thrive diagnosis is the most common way a medical child abuse allegation is born. Victims of Medical Child Abuse will also frequently have problems digesting food, may be malnourished, and may have bone deficiencies.
Medical Child Abuse victims are diagnosed with “a failure to thrive” because they are not hitting developmental milestones. Medical Child Abuse victims are often small and underweight, and are often not crawling, talking, or learning at the average rate of developmental projection.
The cause of this failure to thrive often remains a medical mystery. These children become subject to months, if not years, of rigorous and invasive medical testing and procedures. It is common for feeding tubes to be inserted and a port where they can have medicine easily administered.
When children are diagnosed with a failure to thrive and there is no conclusion as to the source of their health problems medical professionals will often default to the idea that a parent is intentionally stunting their child’s growth and causing these medical problems. With the advent of Child Protection Teams at children’s hospitals across the country, and a new board certification for Child Abuse Pediatrics, there are systems in place that seek to identify these patterns and catch this behavior whenever possible.
When Medical Child Abuse is suspected of a caregiver by a children’s hospital, a Child Protection Team will enter into the equation and seek to determine if there is evidence that may suggest abuse is the source of health problems for the child. It’s the intervention of that Child Protection Team in a child’s hospital that frequently serves as the spark or birthplace of an accusation.
In summary, Medical Child Abuse is the result of a child’s parent or caregiver intentionally sabotaging their development or bringing them to a doctor with no reason and with nothing wrong with the child. It’s the medical care that is causing this child’s problems, not any underlying health problems.
Who Are Typically The Accusers In A Medical Child Abuse Case?
Accusations in a Medical Child Abuse can be made by another parent, usually in a divorced/shared-parenting type of situation – by a grandparent or other extended family member, or by medical professionals.
Social workers, medical doctors, nurses, pediatricians, child abuse pediatricians, and members of a hospital’s Child Protection Team are all mandatory reporters. It only takes one member of a hospital’s Child Protection Team to become suspicious about repeated visits to the hospital for a report to be filed that expresses their concern.
Medical Child Abuse cases are unique because their factual allegations typically cover such a long period – events that occur over the course of several months, if not several years. As such, these accusations will include massive amounts of data, discovery, and medical records that span several months, if not several years in time.
What Investigating Agencies May Be Involved In A Case Of Medical Child Abuse?
Medical Child Abuse cases tend to be investigated by many different agencies and teams simultaneously, at many different levels. Because Medical Child Abuse cases span particularly long periods of time, frequently more and more people become involved in the investigation of the allegation as time goes on.
In a parent’s desperate attempt to find out what is wrong with their child, they will frequently follow an extensive process that includes many different medical professionals and institutions. Often, a caregiver will first bring their child to a pediatrician. When a pediatrician can’t determine the problem, the child will be sent to a specialist, who will then refer them to a children’s hospital. The children’s hospital will then refer them to a larger university medical center.
Medical Child Abuse cases frequently involve several doctors, specialists, and hospitals throughout multiple cities. Because of this, there will usually be multiple jurisdictions involved in any one case.
These cases are most commonly handled by a cross-agency cooperative effort to investigate the claims and handle the results. Medical Child Abuse will often be initially investigated by a Child Protection Team in a children’s hospital at a university medical center. If that medical center is, for example, in Ann Arbor the Child Protection Team will go to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office to make their report. If the Prosecutor’s office determines that there are too many jurisdictions involved in the case, they will usually turn the case over to the Attorney General’s office. However, it is not uncommon for these cases to be handled by multiple police departments, Sheriff’s offices, and Prosecutor’s offices.
For more information on Medical Child Abuse Cases In The State Of MI, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.