‘Abused’ baby actually has genetic illness family court rules

Children|April 28th 2017

A baby removed from her parents after suspicions of abuse in fact suffers from a rare illness, a family court has found.

The family asked to be identified in order to raise awareness of their child’s condition.

Effie, is now approaching her first birthday, was admitted to hospital last summer. Her parents, both in their early 20s, said she had collapsed. Doctors found her unresponsive and struggling to breathe and she suffered a number of seizures.

A CT scan revealed that the baby had ‘bilateral chronic subdural hygromas’ (accumulations of fluid on the brain) and she underwent treatment to relieve the resulting pressure. There were no bone fractures but there was an abnormality of one rib, some bruises and retinal haemorrhaging – none externally visible however.

Effie was made the subject of an emergency protection order and the Police began an investigation. In the Family Court sitting at Milton Keynes, Her Honour Judge Venables conducted a fact-finding hearing. She noted that:

“Both parents have cooperated with all channels of enquiry.”

Effie was finally discharged from the children’s ward and placed in foster care, where she has remained ever since.

Judge Venables explained:

“Effie is now reported to be thriving. It would appear she has suffered no long term consequences from these medical events.”

A police offer noted that while both parents seemed distressed, the father, Craig, seemed especially agitated and he was arrested on suspicion of posing a threat to his daughter.

He later apologised for his behaviour, saying he had been scared.

Social workers at Buckinghamshire Council believed the baby’s symptoms had been caused by her father shaking her and applied for Effie to be taken into long-term care.

During the course of the proceedings, however, an entirely different explanation for Effie’s injuries emerged. Her mother Carla was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes abnormally thin skin prone to bruising, as well as fragile internal organs. As  a result Effie was examined and found to also be suffering from the Syndrome.

In a lengthy ruling, Judge Venable considered the detailed medical evidence received from a numer of experts.

She explained:

“The local authority seeks permission to withdraw their application for a care order. They do so on the basis that the evolving medical evidence would no longer enable them to make out the threshold [establish that there was need for Effie to be permanently removed from her parents and placed in care]”.

She granted permission, saying there was “no solid advantage” to the care proceedings continuing.

She also acknowledged the fortitude of Effie’s young parents, saying:

“I would also like to commend these 2 young parents for the extraordinarily dignified way in which they have conducted themselves over the course of this hearing. They have been required to listen to a mountain of medical evidence relating to their young and vulnerable daughter all of which served to confirm that she has a life changing diagnosis which will significantly impact on her health, lifestyle and likely longevity.”

The ruling is here.

Image by Taber Andrew Bain via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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  1. Paul says:

    Mans pressumtion of innocense bypassed.
    Accused of horrendous actions to his own daugher. Reacts by getting angry. ‘Im sure I would be’ – Anger compounds his guilt.
    This ecco’s so many cases I have read.
    Since the tragic baby P case it seems men are now guilty until proven innocent. This is a tragic step backwards for law in the UK. This domestic violence agenda is doing real harm.

  2. Anon says:

    I don’t this this is a male female thing at all. The problem is that medical explanations should always be sought in these situations. Negligence by the healthcare professionals and social services for jumping to conclusions. Hope they get some financial recompense for this.

  3. John Smith says:

    Please explain why these cases are only written about in care cases. what about divorce cases. Rare diseases dont just happen to married/co-habititing couples.

    In divorce
    father can be accused of abuse or worse as some of the symptoms of ehlers danlos mimic all types of abuse [usually only men are accused] not only by the professionals but by the person he once loved his wife.

    Mothers can be accuesed of either physical abuse or worse munchasen by proxy [see sally clark case]. Before anyone has a go at me that its not longer called muncahsen but FII – I know but how many know this. Muchansen was discredited by the house of lords so its morphed into FII/somatisation/mental health issues/overcaring/overmedicalising etc See the USA cases Justina Pelletier case – hero dad.

    Ehlers danlos isnt just a condition with bruising and broken bones…. it can affect so many aspects like crowded teeth, problems with healing, bladder and bowel control, flat pronating feet and unstable ankles and other joints.

    What are parents to do? if they dont get a diagnosis for ehlers danlos or any other rare condition they are at risk of being accused of physical abuse.

    If the parents attempt to get a diagnosis they run the risk of being accused of munchuasen/FII/overmedialising etc and either having thier children adopted or their spouse accusing them of FII or both.

    There are good GMC guidlines in place and all rare conditions need to be screened prior to a court case being started.

  4. John Smith says:

    PS perhaps we need new directions.

    Have the children been screened for a rare condtion.
    Have GMC guidelines been followed to the letter!

  5. Winston Smith says:

    So what went wrong with the original medical examination ?

    There is an advisory organisation that specialises in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.


  6. John Smith says:

    In care cases its a little easier as have to follow GMC guidelines. In divorce cases they can ignore all the medical evidence and refuse experts

  7. Amber Hartman says:

    Sadly even Richmond LA refused to accept an NHS Professors diagnosis in a case and still issued proceedings claiming FII. LA withdrew after they exhausted every avenue in finding fault and failed…

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