Missouri Rep. Ken Wilson (R-Smithville) has submitted a modest proposal that would aid parents who seek a second medical opinion for their child.
The problem is, it seems to have been largely ignored by the legistature.
Missouri House Bill 217, sponsored by Wilson, would bar charging a parent with child abuse or neglect if he or she has sought and is following the course of treatment for a child outlined by a medical or mental health provider. It would also bar the reporting of possible abuse based on the parent or guardian’s decision to follow such a course of treatment.
The bill, known as “Isaiah’s Law,” is named for Isaiah Rider – a 17-year-old from Kansas City who was taken from his mother at the behest of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago because she sought out a second medical opinion regarding Isaiah’s treatment of pain.
His mother, Michelle, according to a report by Missourinet, says that Isaiah had been removed from her care for nearly a year, yet she has never been charged with a crime.
“I requested a second opinion. I wanted him transferred, I wanted different care for him,” Rider said. “They said that was interfering, but that was interfering with what they wanted, but we as parents have rights to decide the best care for our children.”
Rep. Wilson agrees with Ms. Rider, having told Missourinet that his bill aims to protect parents’ right to determine how their children are cared for.
“This isn’t dreamed up,” said Wilson. “Parents are losing custody of their children based upon someone’s interpretation, someone’s opinion, without fully being vetted, and that’s just wrong.”
He echoed this sentiment to KSHB Channel 41 in January, who reported him as saying, “Parents have a right to make sure their child is receiving the medical care that they deem necessary, and a second opinion? Why is that an issue?”
Channel 41 had previously interviewed Michelle in June 2014.
The last action taken on the bill was on February 17, 2015, when a hearing was held, according to the Missouri House of Representatives House Bill list.
Kansas City Attorney Shelley Patterson told lawmakers during the hearing that she represents clients who have had their children unjustly taken away after having been accused of Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy, in which a caregiver allegedly makes up, causes, or exaggerates a medical condition in someone in his or her care.
“This is a system where they have far too much power and far too little oversight, and something needs to be done,” Patterson testified. “This is happening all over the country.”
System stakeholders came out in full force against the proposed legislation. Deputy Director of Missouri KidsFirst Emily van Schenkhof said, “I don’t think this legislation is the way to do it because there would be so much tremendous collateral consequences to children that absolutely are being hurt.”
According to Missourinet, “Doctor James Anderst with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City told the committee the bill would allow abuse to continue when a parent is, whether deliberately or not, choosing the wrong treatment regimen.”
As of March 2, there is no additional hearing scheduled, and the bill is described as “currently not on a House calendar.”
In reporting on the story last May, the Chicago Tribune explained:
In plain English, they were unable to come up with the correct diagnosis, so they accused the mother of “medical abuse.”
One would hardly have imagined that such a law would have been necessary until the case of Justina Pelletier came to light. A recent lawsuit filed in Massachusetts accuses high-ranking clinicians at Boston Children’s Hospital with conducting a pattern of similar medical kidnappings, as such cases have come to be known.1
Since that time, several similar cases nationwide have come to the public’s attention.
The chair of the House committee that heard the bill, Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton), told Missourinet she has no immediate plan to bring the bill up for a vote.
1. Enough of these cases have come along that a web site specializing in the coverage of these cases by the name of Medical Kidnap has since come about.