Saturday, June 2, 2012

Parents appeal child custody ruling

By Nicole Montesano
Of the News-Register

A local couple is appealing a judge's ruling that removed their two children from their home, after the younger one, a newborn, was found to have suffered multiple broken bones.
Attorneys for Daniel and Linda Dossey argued at trial that they believed their five-week-old infant son suffered broken ribs in a difficult delivery, and that a hospital doctor later broke the infant's leg during an examination, because the infant suffered from rickets, a vitamin D deficiency causing bones to become brittle.
The baby had been taken to the emergency room on the advice of a nurse contacted over a call line, after the parents noted he was holding one leg oddly and had seemed "fussy" for about 24 hours. When doctors X-rayed the infant, they discovered the injuries. That triggered removal of the infant and toddler-aged sister from the home.
In January, the state held a three-week trial to determine whether the children should be returned to their parents or remain in foster care.
Yamhill County Circuit Judge Cal Tichenor, who presided, found in favor of the state. But he encouraged the parents to work with the state Department of Human Services on the potential return of the children at some point.
So far, no criminal charges have been filed. However, prosecutor Ladd Wiles said police have been asked to investigate.
Since the trial, the baby's maternal grandfather, Jim Dossett, has been waging a public campaign on behalf of his daughter and son-in-law, arguing that the children should be returned to their parents.
Dossett says he doesn't believe the baby was ever abused.
Medical witnesses for the prosecution testified at trial that the infant had suffered fractures of three ribs and the left arm bone, all in various stages of healing when they were X-rayed, in addition to the leg fracture. They said he did not have rickets, or any other brittle bone disease.
Dr. Thomas Valvano, director of the Department of Pediatrics at the Oregon Health SciencesUniversity, testified that the ribs had cracked in both the back and front. He said such injuries are most often caused by squeezing of the chest area with sufficient force.
Dossett, and defense attorneys at the trial, blame the cracked ribs on a difficult delivery, during which the baby had to be turned in the womb to avoid a Cesarean section.
The infant was not X-rayed at birth. But the attending physician, Dr. Barker, said any delivery injuries should have manifested themselves as in injuries to the shoulders or collarbone, not the ribs.
The issue was complicated by the fact the radiologist who examined the X-rays said she could not determine when the fractures had occurred, only that they were at least two weeks old.
Dossett argues that Vitamin D tests might have failed to show a deficiency because the infant had already begun taking Vitamin D supplements five days before the tests were performed.
In his ruling, Judge Tichenor noted that a number of character witnesses for the defense, including Dossett, with whom the couple was living at the time, testified they believed the couple to be loving, caring parents who did not show anger toward either child. He also noted that staff who examined the infant at his "well-baby" examination, and his circumcision, did not observe any signs of trauma.
The defense also called a medical doctor and radiologist, David Ayoub, who testified by telephone from Illinois about his theory that neonatal rickets is often misdiagnosed as child abuse.
However, Tichenor said the parents had no explanation for the leg break, beyond speculation it might have been caused by an emergency room doctor, and concluded Ayoub's testimony was "based on his own personal untested medical opinion."
Tichenor said he found "the evidence presented in this case clearly establishes that the child did not suffer from rickets or other fragile bone disease," "there is no reliable medical evidence that would explain these injuries other than trauma," and "there is no reliable explanation how this trauma could have occurred to (the infant) through any accidental means while under the exclusive care and control of his parents."
Tichenor did not find the parents necessarily caused the injuries.
"The evidence does not establish exactly what caused the injury to (the infant), or who or what may have been the source of the force producing the injuries," he wrote. "However, it is clear that one or both of the parents knows or should have known more about the facts and circumstances surrounding the injuries ... than have been related."