As parents, you try to do what’s right for your kids. That includes seeking medical attention when you suspect something is wrong. Nothing can stop your heart faster than waking to a sick child in the middle of the night and racing to the emergency room.
Well, almost nothing.
Imagine that once through the hospital doors, your child might not be free to leave with you. Medical kidnapping is a very real, very terrifying term that describes a scenario where the state steps in to take over child custody when doctors and parents disagree over the medical care your child should receive. The state then places your son or daughter into foster care where you may not even be granted visitation rights.
What can trigger medical kidnapping?
Despite the courts leaning on the side of parents maintaining custody and control over raising and caring for their children, medical facilities may not. Just by trying to do what you believe is in your child’s best interest you may be dropping yourself and your child into a legal minefield that you can’t maneuver without proper legal help.
Just some of the actions that can lead to your child being held against your will include disagreements with the doctor over:
- The diagnosis or proposed treatment plan
- The recommendation of a risky surgery
- Prescribing a drug with dangerous or unknown side effects
- Failing to address your questions or concerns
- Totally disregarding your suggestions for alternative procedures or treatments
If the doctor feels strongly enough, he or she may have you escorted out by the police while continuing to treat your child without your consent. The Department of Social Services will move quickly to obtain legal custody over your child, giving the department the authority to make medical decisions for your son or daughter. This can be critically dangerous if your child was previously diagnosed with a rare condition that the hospital is choosing to discount.
Terrorizing children in the name of healthcare
Pulling sick children away from their parents under the guise of abuse and neglect seems like cruel punishment, but often children who end up in Foster care become victims of real physical abuse. These children end up living with strangers when they are at their most vulnerable, making it unlikely they will be able to fight back. In other cases, the psychological trauma inflicted can be worse than the illness they’re fighting.
- A 13-year-old girl fighting liver cancer was removed from her mother’s care when that mother sought alternative treatments because her daughter wasn’t tolerating chemotherapy.
- Police tracked down parents of a toddler after putting out a “Missing and endangered child” bulletin. He was removed from their custody then transported for medical treatment without the consent of his parents.
While these cases are sometimes associated with communities that don’t believe in traditional medicine, they can happen to any family when there is a conflict between opinions on the healthcare of their children.
It’s not just minor children who are victims of medical kidnapping
The Mayo Clinic has been accused of holding an 18-year-old girl against her will and accused her parents of kidnapping a patient when she fled the hospital in 2017. This was a case of dissatisfaction with the medical treatment the couple’s daughter was receiving and upon numerous requests and refusals to transfer her to another hospital, the family worked together to help her escape.
The girl experienced a nearly fatal brain aneurism and survived, but upon beginning physical therapy over a month later, conflicts with department staff arose when they removed her pain medication and refused to listen to her and her family’s concerns. Conflicts eventually escalated into Mayo Clinic attempting to obtain legal guardianship over the young adult, who was mentally competent.
You may still lose custody after reclaiming your child
Even when you’re no longer married, responsibility for medical treatment can fall to one parent or the other. If a child becomes ill, one of three common practices is typically established through your divorce decree regarding medical decisions for your children:
- The parent with legal physical custody makes all medical decisions.
- The parent with whom the child exercises visitation makes the decision if illness occurs during his or her time.
- When co-parenting can be done successfully, both parents generally agree to consult one another about major medical decisions, however one parent has the ultimate decision.
When medical kidnapping occurs, it can create an excuse to lay blame with the parent who is perceived to have caused the child to be removed into the custody of social services. Maybe you feel that parent’s intention to go against medical advice was unreasonable and harmful to your child. Depending upon the circumstances, it may spark a custody battle based on alleging a change of circumstances.
If your child has been taken into custody by the State of North Carolina due to a disagreement over medical care, you need to move quickly to obtain legal help. The Charlotte child custody attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC know that the longer your child is in the foster care system, the tougher it becomes to get him or her back. Schedule your confidential consultation now with one of our aggressive family law attorneys in our Charlotte, Boone, Concord, or Weddington offices, call 704-321-0031, or reach out to us through our contact page.
Epperson Law Group, PLLC, is guided by a commitment to helping clients achieve favorable results in an efficient manner. Our Charlotte divorce and family law attorneys work with clients every day who face a range of divorce, custody, and other family law issues. We are equipped to help you appropriately resolve some of the most important legal matters you will ever need to address. We invite you to learn more about our team.