Could Mom Who Put Bleach in Her Toddler's Eyes Have Been Stopped?

stethescopeTwisted doesn't even begin to describe this child abuse case. Washington State mom Jennifer Mothershead was arrested for allegedly pouring bleach into her toddler's eyes on several occasions. Now it seems, the doctors who examined the tot -- and failed to raise red flags -- may also face punishment.

Seattle doctors treated the then 14-month-old girl for two months for severe eye infections but only reported her as a possible abuse victim when she showed up at trauma center with a head injury, according to a complaint filed by the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission.

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Mothershead was charged with first-degree child abuse because she allegedly substituted bleach for the medical eye drops the child was taking. Yet Dr. Avery H. Weiss, one of the practitioners who treated the little girl, admitted he suspected something was wrong long before they arrest. He was hesitant to jump the gun on an abuse claim, telling msnbc.com:

"Before I say child abuse, I want incontrovertible evidence."

Even so, doctors in Washington are required by law to report a belief of abuse or neglect no later than 48 hours after treating a child they believe has been harmed.

What happened to this little girl goes way beyond  being harmed, in my opinion. Doctors say she has permanent and severe visual impairment, not to mention the emotional damage that mom likely inflicted.

As far as I'm concerned, if a doctor has even the slightest suspicion something bad is happening to a child, they need to alert the police. Yes, it will anger good parents who have done nothing wrong, but in those cases where a child is being abused, it could save a life.

What do you think? Should a doctor rush to raise the red flag?


Image by tjmwatson/Flickr

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