“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”. Dr. Seuss
Three weeks ago, many Australians heard of the harrowing story detailing the bitter custody battle of a 4-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. His parents have fought an ongoing battle against the Lady Cilento Hospital and the QCS (Queensland Department of Child Safety), who allege the child is at risk of cardiac arrest because he had lost some weight. While this is true, the hospital fail to acknowledge that the child’s weight while on the prescribed cocktail of pharmaceuticals, including a “nutritional” formula fed via his peg (a button surgically inserted directly into his gut), put him on the morbidly obese end of the weight scale. The child also suffered relentless seizures that were not only uncontrolled, but greatly exacerbated by the allopathic care directed by the hospital. After deciding pharmaceuticals, which made him catatonic, and the toxic formula with a one year shelf life containing dairy, which the child is unable to tolerate, was not in their child’s best interests, the parents opted for a diet of organic puréed foods and the use of medical cannabis oil which saw his seizures reduce from approximately 100 per day, down to just 4 per week and up to 50 days seizure free provided he has regular bowel movements. This change in his diet resulted in the child losing weight however his weight still sat just a few grams shy of the medium weight for boys of his age with his condition. His parents also started noticing major improvements including his ability to follow his mother’s gaze, smiling, laughing, attempting to talk and hold objects, something he had not done since his last set of vaccines at 18 months of age.
Despite his miraculous improvements, nine unsuccessful custody attempts and two court hearings, both of which ruled in favour of the parents, the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane together with QCS, have continued to vigorously and shamefully pursue custody of this child. A third court hearing was scheduled in Queensland this morning, which has since been adjourned for two weeks. Despite knowledge of a court hearing in just four days time, the New South Wales Family and Child Services (FaCS) together with a small army of police officers, barged into The Church of Ubuntu in Newcastle where the child and his parents sought refuge after a false amber alert issued by the Queensland Police, alleging they had kidnapped their son from a hospital appointment they had made. In a live recorded Facebook video, Police indicate to the mother that they can’t leave without the child, to which she replies “Over my dead body”. The police officer is then heard saying “I don’t want to have to do that”. According to the Police, and as evidenced by copies of the Court Orders uploaded to Facebook, FaCS allege the parents failed to return the child for a check up on May 17th at the John Hunter Hospital who had been caring for the child since the amber alert issued three weeks earlier. The order states that the child had “critically abnormal” potassium levels identified on May 1st. However, the mother repeatedly says to the officers “He had a blood test two days ago [May 17th]… I’ve got an appointment booked on Monday with the doctor at John Hunter Hospital”. A de-registered doctor, who has greatly assisted the family in healing their son, is also heard saying “You haven’t contacted the doctor who is taking care and responsibility [of this child]“. After much debate, they agreed to go to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for observation.
When the child and his parents arrived at the hospital, they were allegedly placed in a psychiatric room of the emergency department while their advocates were barred from standing by their side. Family and Child Services (FaCS) agents were waiting patiently, no doubt expecting his physicians to confirm he was in some sort of medical danger. The child’s blood work however was perfectly fine and his treating doctor advised that he was not in any imminent danger, did not need to be in the hospital and that he should go home with his parents. According to the mother in a live Facebook video, his potassium levels were consistent with those taken in 2015 when the child was under the care of the Lady Cilento Hospital. Mainstream Media accounts also indicate that the treating doctor advised that the child “had been on potassium replacement therapy”.
In spite of all this, it is alleged that the Police intentionally locked the father in the toilet while social workers forcibly stole the child from his mother’s arms, injuring her in the process. The mother was heard screaming as she desperately tried to hold onto her son and was promptly arrested and dragged outside to an awaiting police car. Her support network who were waiting patiently for news outside, attempted to come to her aid, each of them sprayed with pepper spray. The mother was later released, without charge, while the child was whisked away to an unknown location, left without any familiar faces by his side.
While the mainstream media allege the child was malnourished, his treating doctor rejected any such claims. He also described the treatment of this mother and her family as a “disgrace”. The case remains ongoing and together with their legal team, the parents are doing everything in their power to take back custody of their child who now faces the same pharmaceutical intervention that nearly killed him in the first place. A court hearing has been scheduled for Thursday 25th May in Newcastle.
While there is no doubt that child protection agencies and reports of parental negligence by medical professionals across the county have saved countless lives, many have become despondent at the wasted tax dollars, time and energy on cases such as that of this 4yo child. Despite previous court hearings which conceded in favour of the parents and the presiding judge ruling that the departments have “…followed their obligations over and above what they would be expected…”, this custody battle continues. In stark comparison, last June, Mason Lee, a 21mo year old boy was found dead in his home despite prior knowledge he was physically and sexually abused. The child was admitted to the Lady Cilento Hospital suffering a broken leg, severe nappy rash, a ruptured bowel and an anal tear. In spite of evidence he had been abused over a long period of time, the toddler was sent home with. In a Queensland Parliament Q&A on August 16, 2016, Shadow Minister for Child Safety, Ros Bates asks “…why Mason Lee was discharged from Lady Cilento Hospital without child safety officers having first attended to his safety?
Justine Christerson, patient advocate and independent candidate for the seat of Logon has been fighting this battle with parents for a considerable amount of time. Over the last year, she has been contacted by at least 60 parents seeking her advice on matters very similar to the case of the 4 year old child. Every single one of those cases involved the Lady Cilento Hospital. In many instances, the parents had been labeled as sufferers of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy – a condition where individuals are believed to invent or cause problems in people under their care, often children, in order to gain attention. Parents have been left bewildered when they have sought second opinions for their child’s condition and were turned away. Upon requesting medical records from the Lady Cilento Hospital, one parent discovered a red flag had been placed on her child’s file. This flag advises medical practitioners who see the child not to treat or prescribe, to alert DCS and refer the child back to Lady Cilento Hospital. Upon discovering this, the mother, with Justine’s help, demanded a full review. The Lady Cilento Hospital conceded and the child was formally diagnosed and subsequently scheduled for a category 1 surgery – that is, surgery that is deemed urgent.
These parents already have enough to juggle with their child’s health and the needs of remaining family members. Having social services there to observe and scrutinise their lifestyle only creates further unnecessary anguish, especially when it is on an unfounded basis of neglect. Justine also advises that some of the parents she has helped have been reported to DCS simply because they lodged a complaint against a nurse or doctor who was negligent. Despite clear grounds for medical malfeasance, these practitioners managed to create havoc for those parents by falsely alleging that they were not fit to take care of their own children.
The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights stipulates that every Australian has the right to:
– Access healthcare
– Receive safe and high quality care
– Be shown respect, dignity and consideration
– Be informed about services and treatment options in a clear open manner
– Be included in decisions and choices about healthcare
– The right to privacy and confidentiality
– Comment or complain about care and have concerns addressed
By blocking access to other services, alerting health care professionals about personal and often unfounded beliefs about the parents and not engaging parents in health care choices, it appears the Lady Cilento Hospital may be in breach of all 7 rights under this Charter. When patients seeking a second opinion are turned away from allopathic doctors, they are forced to see alternative health care practitioners for help. Regardless of whether alternative medicine cured or alleviated their child’s condition, parents are then further persecuted for these choices.
When we spoke to Cassidy *, another mother who was reported to FaCS based on false allegations, she said “I had to explain why there were no packaged foods in the cupboard. They scrutinised my bed (we co-sleep), I had to explain why we pulled my autistic daughter out of school and opted for home education instead. I was 20 weeks pregnant and had not had any ultrasounds and intended to home birth and I had to justify my reasoning. I had to get my midwife to support me and I had to show the social workers that I had a good family support network”. Cassidy opted to feed her family wholefoods and cooked everything from scratch yet the social workers felt her children were missing out on foods that their peers regularly consumed. Cassidy had to show she was a ‘reasonable’ parent by purchasing junk food so that when the social workers came back to visit and checked her cupboards, they could see she had been following their advice. Cassidy was also advised that when her next child was born, if she was found to be co-sleeping, social services would intervene. She was also forced to revisit the traumatic experiences of her first child’s birth, detailing the horrendous hospital experience which left her with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in an attempt to justify her home birth decision. Cassidy said “It was scary as hell and I feared my children would all be taken from me. I was trying to get over my PTSD in preparation of my next birth and yet here I was, forced to relive it all again”. Thankfully social services finally conceded that the allegations were baseless but the damage was done. The community already labeled her an irresponsible parent and her children were subsequently ostracised from their friends.
Many may not believe that medical experts, who we are taught to trust, could be responsible for such heinous offences, yet it is a reality that many parents face. A shocking parliamentary inquiry into child welfare in 2016 also heard that Australian children were removed from their families more often than anywhere in the Western world, nearly twice as often as in the US and almost three times the rate in New Zealand. Mary Moore, convener of the volunteer Alliance for Family Preservation and Restoration, told the NSW parliamentary committee that “children were being taken into care based on the opinion of case workers where no harm had occurred”. They feared the child might suffer harm in the future and as a result, the children remained in care up until they were 18 years of age. One must ask, are we witnessing a new kind of stolen generation?
Outraged citizens have organised peaceful rallies across the country to express their concerns over child safety agencies, medical kidnapping and freedom of choice in deciding what form of healthcare is best for their own families. Those protests will be held in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne on 28th May as well as a final mega rally in Sydney on June 4th. There has been also a change.org petition set up which pleads for the return of this child to his loving family. In just a few days, it has amassed 62,000 signatures and growing rapidly.
*Real name not used