Thursday, November 14, 2019

Do No harm: Part Four of the excellent NBC News/Houston Chronicle series: This part is reminiscent of several of the Charles Smith cases which rested on the fiction that short falls indicate abuse - even though accidental short falls have been scientifically proven to cause serious injuries to children... "It was almost dark when the child welfare worker came for the children. Two months had passed since Melissa Bright turned her back for a second, then heard the sickening thump of her baby’s head hitting concrete. It was a short fall, just under 2 feet."

STORY: "Do no harm: Please don't take my children. Their baby fell from a lawn chair, but doctors flagged his injuries as abuse. Then CPS came for the children," by Keri Blakinger, a Houston Chronicle reporter specializing in criminal justice and Mike Hixenbaugh, a national investigative reporter for NBC News, based in Houston, published on Novenber 7, 2019. (This article, the fourth in a series, was published in partnership with the Houston Chronicle. )

GIST: (These are   small excerpts of a very large, disturbing story which cry out to be read word for word at the link below.  Prepare to be angry as you read this story. Very angry. I certainly was. I was all too familiar with similar outrages perpetrated by so-called child abuse 'specialists'  with their own personal agendas,  like the former doctor Charles Smith, who I had tracked for many years. HL): 

FIRST EXCERPT:  "It was almost dark when the child welfare worker came for the children.  Two months had passed since Melissa Bright turned her back for a second, then heard the sickening thump of her baby’s head hitting concrete.   It was a short fall, just under 2 feet. The kids had been playing in the sprinkler, trying to cool off in the front yard on that July afternoon. Melissa set 5-month-old Mason on a camping chair before turning to wrangle wet clothes off her 2-year-old daughter.  After Mason fell on the driveway, Melissa scooped him up and ran upstairs, watching his head swell as he wailed. Panicked, she called her husband, Dillon, at work then dialed 911.   The Brights stayed the night at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, praying their son would be OK. The next day, a medical team came into the room. They had reviewed some scans of Mason’s head and had questions: Had the baby fallen a second time? If not, why were there two skull fractures? The Brights were baffled. They didn’t remember any other fall, and didn’t know what else could cause that type of injury.  Unsatisfied by their answers, a doctor training to become a child abuse pediatrician typed up a disquieting note in the boy’s medical records. “The presence of multiple skull fractures is concerning for a nonaccidental skeletal injury,” Dr. Dhvani Shanghvi wrote. “The single impact fall would not be expected to cause both injuries.  The hospital shared those concerns with Child Protective Services, as required by law, and the agency opened an investigation.  The Brights were swept into a bureaucratic child welfare system that relies heavily on the opinions of doctors who specialize in spotting abuse — sometimes even in the face of contradictory evidence, an NBC News and Houston Chronicle investigation found..............................................................

SECOND EXCERPT: Lawyers and medical experts who routinely represent accused caregivers told reporters that they’ve seen some doctors overstate their ability to tell when a child’s injuries are the result of abuse.  Dr. Julie Mack, a Pennsylvania State University radiologist who frequently reviews cases at no charge on behalf of accused caregivers — including the Brights — said doctors have a moral and legal obligation to report to authorities when they suspect a child has been harmed. But she said she believes that, after the initial report is made, child abuse pediatricians and child welfare workers sometimes confuse “a reasonable suspicion” with evidence of wrongdoing. It’s true, Mack said, that children rarely suffer multiple skull fractures and brain bleeding after common household falls. But each fall is different, she said, and just because something is rare doesn’t mean it’s implausible. “It’s not a question of statistics,” Mack said. “Statistically, it’s unlikely. That’s not the issue. This is a single person, and it either did or it didn’t. It’s binary. You can’t use statistics to solve an individual problem.” After a report comes in from a hospital, child welfare investigators are supposed to probe possible explanations and try to confirm or rule out the doctor’s concerns. If a child abuse pediatrician reports that a child’s injuries likely would not have resulted from a single short fall as described by parents, the caseworker should go to the scene and interview other people who care for the child, searching for alternative explanations. But several current and former Child Protective Services workers in Texas told reporters that opinions from child abuse pediatricians carry significant weight and sometimes drive their decision-making. Once a doctor declares that a child’s injuries are most likely the result of abuse, state workers often have little choice but to seek to remove the child from the parents or caregiver, said Rhonda Carson, a former child welfare supervisor. “They will never go against what the medical professional writes down,” Carson said.  Child welfare agencies also are empowered to order follow-up testing and speak directly with treating specialists. In the case of short falls, tests can uncover underlying conditions — such as bleeding disorders and genetic deficiencies — that could predispose a child to severe injuries. But child welfare agencies do not always scrutinize medical records for contradictory evidence or ask for additional doctor opinions, the NBC News and Chronicle investigation found, leaving parents to do it themselves. In one case from 2014 reviewed by reporters, a child abuse pediatrician in Austin reported that a 7-month-old baby’s injuries — bleeding around his brain and at the backs of his eyes — were too serious to have resulted from a fall from a bed onto carpet, raising the possibility that the child had been shaken and prompting Child Protective Services to take emergency custody. But the medical report provided to authorities omitted a key element: The parents believed the baby had hit his head on a wooden baseboard before landing on the carpet. And the report from the hospital incorrectly stated that there was no evidence of an impact injury on the baby’s head to support the parents’ story. Multiple doctors had examined the child at the hospital and noted scalp swelling that seemed to indicate the baby bumped his head, just as the parents had described, medical records show. Despite these inconsistencies, Child Protective Services relied on the doctor’s report as the basis for an emergency removal. The baby remained in the custody of the state and in the care of family members for four months, according to his parents, before being returned home."
The entire story can be read at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;