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A bruise is not always abuse

Lenore Skenazy on

"Taking her to our own hospital was the single most harmful decision that we made for our baby."

So said a dad who worried he'd accidentally injured his newly adopted infant by rolling into her when they both dozed off. He took her to the hospital just to make sure she was fine. Turns out she had suffered a minor fracture that is common in babies and heals on its own. That was in May. Two weeks later, child protective services declared him a child abuser and took the baby from him and his wife.

The child has been in foster care now for eight months. She is 9 months old.

What happened? NBC's Mike Hixenbaugh did a remarkable investigative story on how easy it seems to be for the authorities to see almost any bump or bruise as evidence of evil.

That fateful May night, the dad, John Cox (himself a pediatric emergency doctor at Children's Wisconsin, the hospital he took his baby to) thought that the way the girl was moving her arm could indicate something was wrong. So, Hixenbaugh writes:

"Cox called his wife, Dr. Sadie Dobrozsi, who was out of town with their two older children, and cried as he explained what had happened. Dobrozsi, a pediatric oncologist at the same hospital, said she told him to calm down and asked to video chat. The baby appeared fine to her, but to be safe, Dobrozsi suggested that Cox take her to see her pediatrician.


"'That's what normal parents who aren't doctors would do,' she told him.

"What followed, according to more than 15 medical experts who later reviewed Cox's case, was a series of medical mistakes and misstatements by hospital staff members that has devastated Cox's family and derailed his career."

In addition to mistaking birthmarks for bruises and misinterpreting the results of a blood test, some staffers seemed so eager to find abuse that they hallucinated it. How come?

Children's Wisconsin, like many hospitals, has bought into the theory of "sentinel injuries" -- the idea that minor bruises can be warning signs of future abuse, so each bruise must be treated as suspicious.


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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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