The Misdiagnosis of Child Abuse: A Series of Events 

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Child Abuse is a genuine issue, and the horrors of some cases are real. However, this Story is about how professionals can manipulate those same systems to cause harm to racialized marginalized communities.  

The practice of racial profiling resulting in a misdiagnosis of Child Abuse has had long-term consequences for Onkwehonwe across the Nation.  

The manipulation of existing harmful stereotypes like drug or alcohol abuse within indigenous communities resulted in allegations of failed prenatal drug screening tests for one member of our community, who we will refer to as Jennifer.

The allegations proved unfounded through the complaining physician’s prenatal drug screening reports. But unfortunately, the physician’s words carried more weight than the actual results despite cautionary events.   

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A Pre-existing context.

Jennifer’s most reliable medical history includes an aunt who experienced a high-risk pregnancy that resulted in maternal mortality. The reporting physician in Jennifer’s case coincidently was the most responsible physician in her aunt’s case.

She specifically requested to avoid having him part of her care team based on this previous history. However, he was the only Obgyn available when she delivered her daughter. The delivery was awkward, but there were no complaints, so when she was pregnant with her youngest child, she wasn’t as apprehensive as previously.

The doctor allegedly mentioned tubal ligation; despite the unsolicited advice, a physical exam was the last straw. Jennifer alleges that the doctor harmed her during a prenatal physical examination and this physician ignored her distress. 

Her nightmare started here.

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Why so late?

Two months later, During an emergency room visit to assess a potential metabolic event, The infant was apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society for reported maternal drug use. Still, CAS should have been contacted immediately and not two months later. 

The time it took to respond to the report is questionable, yet it is still the duty to report immediately, especially by medical practitioners. Still, despite the allegations being false, Jennifer faced the stigma and labels, and CAS was just getting started. 

Disclaimer: Many valid interventions result in appropriate protective services involvement. This Story isn’t one of them.