Are innocent parents losing their kids for suspected abuse, due to a doctor’s conflict of interest? That is what protesters before the University of Michigan Board of Regents say happened to them.
“This doctor made a misdiagnosis after looking at an X-ray, never seeing us, never seeing my kids - and had the power to tear us apart,” said Melissa Geers.
Geers says her five kids were taken from her for more than two months because of one child protection team doctor’s finding.
Then another doctor proved her baby had broken bones, not due to abuse, but due to a brittle bone disorder - common in premature infants. Her kids are now home, but traumatized by the separation.
“It can be anything that can be perceived as abuse. You can lose your children,” said Brenda Burns.
Brenda Burns says her husband is incarcerated, serving time for abuse that never happened against her baby. Burns says a Livingston County jury found him guilty of abuse due to a doctor’s mistake. She says birth trauma caused the symptoms a doctor originally said were caused by abuse.
She came before the UM Board of Regents to raise awareness that some hospitals, like the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital have protection teams funded by the State Department of Human Services.
They allege this is a conflict of interest that encourages doctors on that team to find cases to be child abuse,
even when other medical conditions may have hurt the child.
The University of Michigan Health System says that is not the case. It released a statement saying:
Our C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital child protection team has extensive expertise in analyzing medical evidence to evaluate whether injuries may have been caused by abuse. This team, a valued resource at UMHS, does an exhaustive review of cases at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital when there is suspected abuse of an infant or child.
The team is responsible for providing the most accurate medical diagnosis to the appropriate agencies, but U-M providers do not make decisions or recommendations about whether or how cases are pursued. Any questions about the merits of the legal decisions should be directed to the appropriate legal entities in Livingston County, MI
Under a contract between UMHS and the state, doctors on the child protection team may also consult on cases outside our hospital and provide a second opinion to state agencies. Contract monies reimburse UMHS for these services and none of the funding goes directly to any of the doctors. Reimbursement for U-M’s services is the same regardless of what medical opinion doctor’s provide.