SEATTLE – Charlie's family never gave up the fight for their premature baby boy. But just when they thought Charlie was out of the woods they faced losing him to a new danger. The state's Child Protective Services tried to take Charlie away after his parents asked for a second medical opinion. Our Problem Solvers team investigated what it took to "Save Charlie." ...Many medicos do hate it when you ask too many questions.
But what led to Charlie's medical emergency? Why did the hospital call CPS? And why did CPS sue to take Charlie away?
The Graggs think it's because they were "too" involved.
"It's in the notes," says John Gragg, referring to the Mary Bridge Hospital records. "'Parents ask endless questions – seems repetitive – it's annoying.' Of course we want to ask these questions; we want to know what it says; we have every right to understand and know what's going on."
The Graggs asked the Problem Solvers to investigate. We found that the Gragg's desire for a second medical opinion, along with questions about Charlie's tracheostomy tube, are at the core of what happened. ...
The Graggs say Mary Bridge officials just kept insisting, in spite of medical reports that show no evidence of reflux, that Charlie had reflux and needed a different feeding tube.
"I says, well we'd like to get a second medical opinion; we want him transferred over to Children's," says John. "Doctor looks right at us and says if you don't sign the consent form to do this, we're gonna get a court order to do it."
Staff at Mary Bridge then called CPS.
"The concerns that were presented to us was that the parents were not consenting to that treatment," said Regional Children's Administration Manager Barb Geiger.
In this case, it appears that the hospital was trying to get the parents to sign a consent form for treatment contrary to what the records indicated. Maybe the records were wrong, or maybe the surgeon was wrong. Or maybe the parents misinterpreted the records, I have no idea. But if they are asking for the parents' consent, then the parents ought to be asking about any concerns that they have. There is a reason that it is called a "consent form". Obviously the hospital is used to intimidating parents into signing these forms without understanding the issues.
CPS is the abuser here.
But four days after CPS was called in, the state decided it was "medical neglect" and sued, asking the court for custody of Charlie. ...So it took a two-month investigation and a lawsuit to determine that it was okay for the parents to seek a second opinion?
Geiger told us they have to rely on the information they receive from doctors and nurses: "We're not medical professionals; we're social workers."
In the meantime Charlie was transferred to Seattle Children's Hospital. The Graggs got their second opinion and consented to the surgery. But the state did not drop its suit. Instead it had a foster family prepare to take Charlie home.
We asked why the state continued to seek dependency after the surgery was performed.
"We were very concerned for the baby," Geiger says, "and wanted to make sure that he had the necessary care once he was released from the hospital as well."
However, records show that the day after the Graggs' attorney sent the state copies of Charlie's discharge orders, his reflux tests and information about the trach suction depth, the state dropped its suit, agreeing there was "no" medical neglect and Charlie would stay with his parents.
You don't have to be a medical professional to know that it is reasonable for parents to ask questions and get a second opinion before signing a consent form. Geiger meant to say, "We're not evil; we're idiots." I think that CPS is evil.