Contributed to TLB by: Health Impact News and Medical Kidnap
Michigan parents Josh Soto and Alexandria Burgess took their ten month old baby girl Selena to the pediatrician on September 1, 2015 because she was fussy, tugging on her ears, cutting teeth, had severe diaper rash, and seemed to have pain in her legs.
The pediatrician didn’t seem concerned, and gave her Benedryl and a cortisone cream for her diaper rash. He suggested that they keep an eye on her but didn’t note any concerns.
Ten days later, on September 11, 2015, Selena’s pain seemed to have increased so they took her to the E.R. of a local hospital, Promedica-Bixby in Adrian, MI. The attending nurse initially ordered a hip x-ray, but Alexandria and Josh requested that they x-ray her legs, too, to be thorough.
When the doctor came back into the room she said she had two broken legs, and asked “How did this happen?” They were referred to the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan where a child abuse doctor determined that Selena had been abused.
Testing Inconclusive, but Child Abuse Assumed Anyway
The process for determining that Selena’s injuries were allegedly “consistent with child abuse” took a month. Selena presented without any external marks on her. No currently known mutations in two of the most commonly tested genes for osteogenesis imperfecta, COL1A1 & COL1A2, came back in Selena’s testing.
But there was a variance that couldn’t be accounted for. She was only tested for two out of 18 of the most well known genetic markers for osteogenesis imperfecta which came back “benign” according to the doctor.
“Without a clear history of osteopenia these fractures are consistent with abuse.”
Alexandria was also tested for two of the genes that contained the variance for the gene that Selena had….markers to determine whether she passed brittle bone disease on to Selena and the results have not been given to Alexandria.
Josh has repeatedly called to schedule his testing but has not been contacted back.
There was a variance in Alexandria’s genetic make-up, (mutation) found in Selena in a position never seen before in a patient but, they allegedly determined it was “most likely” not disease causing without any basis for determining that. It wasn’t one of the two known mutations, so the child abuse expert wrote it off.
Experts Disagree with “Child Abuse” Diagnosis
Retired University of Michigan professor of pathology Dr. Douglas Smith consulted with a radiologist about Selena’s x-rays. The radiologist determined that the x-ray shows that the baby’s legs are osteopenic.
According to Dr. Smith, there are several possible mutations that would cause the inherited disorder. He explained that a panel of tests needs to be run before ruling it out.
“She (doctor) merely speculated that there is no genetic mutation causing the brittle bones and it had to be child abuse.”
The full panel testing that Alexandria, Josh and Selena need is not provided by the state and is very expensive.
Alexandria and Josh said they wanted to get a second opinion. Selena was taken away from Alexandria and Josh without any court order. They were told that they were to hand her over that day and were not told that it was voluntary. They had to “err on the side of caution.” Selena is being cared for by Josh’s aunt. Josh and Alexandria are able to visit with her. Selena had been in daycare where no one had expressed any concerns about Selena’s care.
Eugene Wilson, Chairman at the Center for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Alliance, is a consultant on Selena’s case.
He says that the doctor at Mott Children’s Hospital didn’t do her due diligence.
Selena was only tested for two of the 18 markers known. In addition to the osteogenesis imperfecta Selena most likely has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) as observed in her x-rays. In fact he states that all three, Selena and both parents should be thoroughly tested in order to establish a hereditary pattern.
Is Mott Children’s Hospital Wrongly Accusing Parents Based on Bad Science?
According to Mr. Wilson,
“Mott has done this to multiple families. They accuse parents of child abuse without doing due diligence which is a pediatrician’s job.”
Child abuse experts are dealing with all possible disorders but are not experts in any of the medical fields and once a person is accused of child abuse then they cannot back down for fear of litigation. “It is a CYA society now.”
Dr. Douglas Smith explained that there are two main contracts that Mott Children’s Hospital has with the state of Michigan. One is to give second opinions on cases flagged as possible child abuse cases and the second is to teach aspects of child abuse to case workers.
The research studies that are done are flawed according to Dr. Smith in that they have “research bias.”
One example of this is a “short fall” study that collects data when there is an infant involved in a short fall where no child abuse is suspected. By only using the participants who are not suspected of child abuse they ended up with skewed results. Without a control group they are not able to isolate and eliminate variables. In this case they didn’t have any comparison with babies involved in short falls where child abuse is suspected. If you don’t include controls in a study you will not have valid results.
Osteogenisis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease is:
“an inherited disorder of the tissue that holds the body together (connective tissue). It is present at birth (congenital). A child born with OI may have signs and symptoms that range from mild to severe. He or she may have soft bones that break (fracture) easily, bones that are not formed normally, and other problems.” (Source.)
There is a decrease in the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the bone. This can result in bones that are too weak and brittle which increases the risk of broken bones.
Selena also suffers from a lack of vitamin D which is the key to calcium absorption from the intestines and kidneys which is essential for bone density. If during pregnancy a baby’s mother is low in Vitamin D, then the baby will be born low in Vitamin D as well.
If a mother breast feeds, as Selena was exclusively, and is Vitamin D deficient, then her baby will still be Vitamin D deficient because her milk will not supply the baby with enough to make up for it. When a person’s body is deficient in vitamin D then bones cannot be built easily and children become vulnerable for osteopenia, rickets and fractures more easily.
Other Possible Causes not Investigated – Parents Just Assumed to be Guilty
Alexandria reported that Selena was put in a Johnny Jump Up at day care. In it, she was putting weight on her legs and bouncing. They asked the doctor if that could have put too much stress on Selena’s weak-boned legs.
Also, not long before the E.R. visit, Josh’s elderly mother had to catch the baby by grabbing her ankles one day, because she was about to drop her. They asked if that could have been too much stress and caused the bones to fracture.
The child abuse doctor explained those incidents were not the cause because there would have been more evidence of healing. She ruled it out as a possibility.
According to Dr. Smith, when bones are osteopenic they do take much longer to heal and those incidents should not have been ruled out as possible causes.
“Child Abuse” is not a Medical Condition – It is a Criminal Charge
“Child abuse is not a diagnosis, it is a criminal charge.”
The child abuse doctor explained that they are not sure what the diagnosis is and what the cause of the fractures are. The fact that the child abuse expert has put minimal energy into getting to the bottom of Selena’s fractures, and instead declares it consistent with child abuse is the extent of her investigation.
“The genetics counselor said the variance (the mutation that Selena did have) was a variance of uncertain significance, I believe, but that it was most likely not disease causing. But the thing is….it had never been observed in another child, they had no published literature on it to refer to, so they really can’t for sure say whether it is or not…it is a good example of how potential medical issues or explanations are just disregarded without further investigation. It’s their job to find the explanation.”
Alexandria explained that Selena’s medical condition is multifaceted because Selena has multiple issues including the connective disorder EDS in addition to the vitamin D deficiency and bone disease. Their case, and all child abuse cases, deserve to have professionals put in the time it takes to thoroughly investigate all possible causes before the charge of child abuse is given.
Reputations Ruined based Only on Allegations
In Michigan, there is a permanent list of anyone ever accused of child abuse.
Alexandria and Josh are on that list. Their case hasn’t even been heard yet.
They have never been charged criminally, never been arrested and are allowed frequent visitation with Selena.
The New Pediatric Sub-specialty of “Child Abuse”
The academic pediatric sub-specialty of child abuse pediatrician is a fairly new sub-specialty of pediatrics. 2009 is when the specialty first became recognized. Training requires a fellowship with a teaching hospital’s child protection unit and a board exam afterwards.
These board certified child abuse experts are responsible for determining whether or not children and adolescents have been abused physically, sexually, medically (facticious illness) or emotionally/psychologically. They are sometimes asked to testify in court cases for child protection organizations as experts in child abuse.
When an expert of any field testifies that they know something for sure because of their expertise and the tests that they ran, a jury trusts that means they must know for sure.
Alexandria and Josh have chosen not to sign a case plan with the state of Michigan, but instead are asking for a trial. They have not decided whether to have a jury or not. According to them, they did not abuse their daughter and are focused on proving their innocence.
Criminal court, where there are currently no charges or cases against Alexandria and Josh, has a higher standard of proof than dependency court.
Alex and Josh have a trial date set for March 29-30, 2016 in juvenile/dependency court in Lenawee County Michigan.
The state is planning to terminate their parental rights.
If they were in criminal court, the state would have a higher burden to prove their case against them, beyond a reasonable doubt. In juvenile court, however, the state’s burden is only a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the state only has to prove that there is a 51% likelihood that they are guilty.
Chippewa Tribe to Take on Case
Alexandria’s mother is on the rolls of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribe in Michigan. She was hoping to get herself and Selena on the rolls and let the tribe take over the case. The Chippewa tribe has a much higher standard of proof before terminating someone’s parental rights. As of now they have not been charged criminally and are free to visit Selena.
Alexandria reports today that the tribe has accepted them.
“My mother belongs to the tribe in Sault Ste. Marie, and each ‘band’ operates under their own tribal codes and ordinances specific to their group.”
Their standard of proof of child abuse is much higher. She is very hopeful that the tribe will take a much closer and more extensive look into Selena’s hereditary issues before concluding that the test results are consistent with child abuse.
“We did everything we were supposed to as parents, and yet still found ourselves in this nightmare. She is all we have. It was so hard going into the hearing where they told us that they were petitioning for termination, based on her “best interests”…..yet they couldn’t even get her name right.
They kept calling her “Sonia Soto” or “The Child.” While this may just be another child to CPS and the Child Protection Team, another case, another stack if [sic] paperwork on someone’s desk, she is the ONLY child in our lives….Selena is our world……we would never hurt our little girl, and we are just trying to find answers, just like everyone else.
No one seemed to care. We went to these people for help, but got allegations instead. And now have no more answers than the night we took her to the hospital trying to figure out why our baby girl was in pain.
This time, these moments with her…..we never get it back. Her first birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her first time saying “Momma,” her first steps…..all away from home. All ruined by this nightmare we’ve been thrown into.
This is not how we are supposed to be welcoming our daughter into her second year of life. We will fight for our Selena, and will not give up. Our little girl does not deserve to be put through this…..not to be torn from her parents when she needs us most.
We just want to bring her home, where she belongs.”
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