AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Do No Harm.”
It’s part of the oath all doctors take.
But some children are taken from their parents by mistake. It happens when well-intentioned doctors misidentify or misdiagnose child abuse.
The House of Representatives Committee on Human Services met on Tuesday to review the policies and procedures established by the Department of Health and Human Services when reports of child abuse and neglect require investigation.
Specifically, the committee discussed the system of checks and balances between DFPS, the judicial system and medical professionals and analyzed the consistency among department employees when an investigation is underway.
Committee Chair Representative James Frank called for this specific discussion after hearing several reports of children being wrongfully removed from their families in Texas.
Rep. Frank invited parents who have been personally involved in child welfare investigations to testify, including Jason and Lorina Troy, whose children were temporarily removed from their home after doctors misdiagnosed their child with shaken baby syndrome.
In reality, their infant son suffered from a medical condition that caused the head to swell. The family was later reunited after a doctor in Maryland submitted the correct diagnosis.
“The judge signed off on the emergency removal of my two sons who were only four years old and six months old at the time,” Lorina Troy tearfully testified. “There was never any evidence of child abuse.”
The Troy’s weren’t alone.
There were several other families at the hearing who shared their personal experience. Other cases are surfacing in Texas, too.
Giselle Guerrero and her husband Andres Valencia had their 7-month-old son taken from them after a doctor reported what he considered to be shaken baby syndrome. In reality, the baby had hit his head after falling off the bed.
“They said our stories didn’t match up. They were trying to make us say something that wasn’t happening,” Valencia recalls.
“I think the problem is that the doctors have too much power,” Guererro said. “I know that it’s a very difficult decision for them, but I think that CPS should ask for a second opinion.”
Doctors also testified at the committee hearing on Tuesday, saying they always work in the best interest of their patients, but they don’t want to hesitate if they suspect abuse.
DFPS officials said they welcome the opportunity to work with legislators to improve the system.
“I understand that laws can’t be changed until 2021,” Lorina Troy said, referencing Texas’ next legislative session. “But policies and procedures can be changed much, much sooner.”
Do No Harm
For the past few months, KXAN and NBC News have been looking into stories like this as part of an investigation called “Do No Harm.”