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State retains custody of teen in hospital

In a case that has grabbed national attention in Texas and across the nation, a Connecticut family attempted to regain custody of their daughter after a 10-month stay in Boston Children's Hospital on Dec. 20. The parents brought their teen to the hospital for care after she was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a genetic disorder that can throw a person's entire system and bodily functions out of balance. The girl was struggling just to eat and walk. One of her doctors referred her to Boston Children's because the gastroenterologist who treated her had moved there.

However, medical professionals began to look at the possibility that her health issues were psychiatric-based and suspected that her parents were preventing her from obtaining the necessary mental health care. They reported their suspicions to the state, and she was taken into emergency custody. She has been kept in a children's psychiatric ward for 10 months.

The parents went to juvenile court in Boston to fight for child custody, but a judge denied their request although he ordered an investigation into the matter. He further indicated he could approve her return home if Connecticut officials watch her case. The case is centered on a concept called 'medical child abuse," a label for parents who might be keeping a child from receiving medical care or encouraging harmful treatments.

When a teen is placed into the care of the state, the parents might try to regain custody. If they cannot do so, a family lawyer might be able to help plead their case in court.

Source: The Boston Globe, 'No release for Conn. teen caught in hospital dispute," Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen, Dec. 21, 2013

Source: Fox News, "Family battles hospital for custody of daughter in controversial ‘medical child abuse’ case", December 23, 2013

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Bruce Turner

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