Friday, April 2, 2010


NYLJ 06-06-2007


3. Sometimes the Good Guys win…even when their opposition is also the Good Guys. In these cases, it never really fits into such simplistic dimensions. “God does not write cheap melodramas with quick fixes” (to paraphrase Einstein beyond all recognition)—everything is complicated by pain and suffering and even victory is sad and the losers seem all the worse for doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

The parents who regained custody of their 6-yr-old daughter had been fighting for three years. The Saratoga County Dept. of Social Services successfully petitioned her removal to foster care when evidence began to, in their eyes, prove insurmountable that she was the victim of horrible abuse. It was in December of 2003 when her repeated hospital trips were reported to the social workers, the last resulting in a skeletal survey and CT scan showing fractures of ribs, skull, forearms and tibia, when they asked the Family Court judge to intervene. The Court declined the county’s request citing the obvious fact that the parents were doing all they could, conceding nothing, or at the very least, evidencing no suspicious behaviors, in their quest to find a solution to this mysterious malady.

In March 2004, when EMT’s said she’d coughed up a mucous plug, the county examiner, Dr. Suez, concluded that she had been intentionally smothered. The next day she was declared an abused child and ordered taken from her parents. The County didn’t ignore the other two children, still at home, either, subjecting the family to monitoring as well as unannounced visits.

The original doctor was soon joined by a second, Slather, who has at first been sympathetic to the parents, but later went into full war against them, even soliciting opinions of other physicians as additional ammunition, in both of the Doctor’s views it was a process of elimination: for Suez, there could be no other explanation because there was too much evidence of the standard issue; for Slather, it was a mounting crusade which blinded him to other possibilities. “Once they fell under the eye of SS workers, it was a no-win situation,” concluded the defense argument. “No matter what they did or didn’t do, it wasn’t the right thing. If they were at the hospital every day, they were with their child too much. If they missed a day, it was a bad thing.” Very much the same thing as when the police decide you are a “person of interest”. At that point, if you don’t get a lawyer, you are a fool.

What was missing in all this was any competent professional who knew about OI—Osteogenesis Imperfeda, a/k/a “brittle bone disease.” That it took an orthopedic surgeon and a pediatric rheumatologist to see the syndrome as the probable cause underscores the trauma in italics “In 10 to 15% of OI cases, neither collagen or genetic testing will indicate the presence of the condition.”

And, like the elusive syndrome itself, the court found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the other two children were neglected or abused in any way. But what the judge was most critical of was the two “experts” of social services. “Simply put, Suez’ lack of expertise with OI, deductive analysis (or lack of) and quest to divine a single solution to the complex host of maladies, coupled with Slather’s transition” (from parent’s advocate to Inspector Javert), “all but eviscerates the value of their medical testimony.”

What makes matters even worse is that the Saratoga County Attorney want to ride it again, flogging the dead horse up to the Court of Appeals.

Words cannot express…the wheel turns round again…

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