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Child custody case leads to outrage, despair

For Texas parents, few things can be more distressing than the thought of losing the right to raise one's own child. In the vast majority of child custody disputes, the struggle is between a mother and father who are unable to agree on the division of parenting duties after their marriage has come to an end. However, there are other ways that parents can lose access to their children, even when the family unit remains whole and functioning.

Such is the case for one family that is currently fighting to regain custody of their teenage daughter. The girl was placed under one state's emergency protective custody after her family sought treatment at a hospital's emergency room. The reason for her removal was not a suspicion that she was physically, sexually or emotionally abused. Medical child abuse was the motivation behind the state's decision to wrench legal custody away from her parents and place her within a hospital's child psychiatric ward.

The girl has been under the care of several physicians for nearly two years, after she was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder that can cause a wide range of medical problems. However, when her parents took her to a hospital that was unfamiliar with her medical history, doctors there diagnosed her with a different disorder, one which has a psychological rather than a physical base. When her parents did not agree with this diagnosis and asked that she be seen by her regular doctors, the hospital reported them for medical abuse, which led them to lose custody.

This case has not yet been resolved, and the family is intent on securing the return of their daughter. There can be no words that properly express the fear, anger, resentment and frustration that they must feel after a disagreement between medical professionals led to a violation of their parental rights. For parents in Texas, the case serves as a warning that not all child custody battles result from a divided family.

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

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