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Parents fight for custody after misdiagnosed healing rickets

Two Texas parents are fighting for custody of their 18-month-old son after he was taken from their care when he was just 42 days old. The case started when the boy was just three weeks old while the family was living in Florida. The mother was changing the boy's diaper when she noticed swelling in his arm. After a trip to the emergency room with no diagnosis, the swelling returned several days later. This time, with the family now living in Texas, hospital staff noticed multiple fractures throughout the boy's body. He was transferred to Dallas's Children's Medical Center, and the parents say they were immediately suspected of child abuse.

The parents have enlisted help from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. Their attorney said she believes the boy was suffering from healing rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiencies that may begin while the child is still in the womb. She cited several cases in the Dallas area in recent years in which healing rickets were confused with child abuse.

A clinical radiologist said he has seen several hundred cases of healing rickets in the past few years, and that he could see how authorities could confuse it with abuse. The family recently lost a jury verdict in family and juvenile court to regain custody of their son. They are filing an appeal.

Authorities and medical personnel are justifiably vigilant in their watching for any signs of abuse. However, sometimes parents are incorrectly accused of abuse when a real medical problem is actually at the root of the issue. It can be very difficult for parents to emerge from that cloud of suspicion to regain custody of their children. While this particular issue concerns the state and the parents, a similar principle may emerge in even a complex family law case when the court is attempting to look out for a child's best interests in a custody dispute.

Source: KHOU, "Parents try to regain custody of baby after fractures they say caused by rickets", Janet St. James, January 10, 2014

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Bruce Turner

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