Johns Hopkins All Children's faces $200M lawsuit as Netflix documentary controversy goes to trial

A family's $200 million lawsuit against St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital over a case that was brought to light in a Netflix documentary, Take Care of Maya, has gone to court, Fox 13 News reported Sept. 21. 

Take Care of Maya shows 10-year-old Maya Kowalski being sheltered at Johns Hopkins All Children's due to allegations of child abuse. 

Johns Hopkins All Children's twice reported Maya's mother, Beata Kowalski, to the state's abuse hotline alleging child medical abuse after she requested the hospital give her daughter ketamine for her complex regional pain syndrome. The family claims Maya's ketamine infusion therapy had been part of her treatment for CRPS for more than a year. 

The mother's persistence to give Maya ketamine raised alarms for the health system's staff, which is why they reported her, according to the publication. 

In opening statements for the trial, which began Sept. 21, an attorney for Johns Hopkins All Children's said Maya received 55 doses of Ketamine over a nine month period, as well as a dose the day before her mother, Ms. Kowalski demanded emergency room physicians at the health system to administer more of the drug. 

"They had a child being given levels of medication they had never heard of before, that the literature did not support," the lawyer for the health system told the court. 

After this incident, Beata Kowalski was ordered not to have physical contact with her daughter and ended up taking her own life after 87 days. 

In court, according to a Sept. 21 publication from Tampa Bay Times, the Kowalski's lawyer told the jury that "evidence will prove" that Johns Hopkins All Children's misdiagnosed Maya and that the health system wrongly accused Maya's parents of medical child abuse. 

Johns Hopkins All Children's told Becker's in an emailed statement, "Our priority at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is always the safety and privacy of our patients and their families, and we are vigorously defending against the false allegations made in the suit. … Our first responsibility is always to the child brought to us for care, and we stand behind our staff's compassionate care."

The health system said its staff are required by law to notify Florida's Department of Children and Families if they suspect abuse or neglect, and that it is DCF and a judge — not Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital — that investigates the situation and makes the ultimate decision about what course of action is in the best interest of the child. 

"We are determined to prevent any chilling effect on the obligation of mandatory reporters, including teachers, first responders, and healthcare workers, to report suspected child abuse in order to protect the most vulnerable among us," Johns Hopkins All Children's wrote. "We follow strict federal privacy laws that limit the amount of information we can release regarding any particular case, but we look forward to demonstrating to the court and jury that all of the appropriate and legally required processes were followed by our staff." 

The family is suing for $55 million in compensatory damages and $165 million in punitive damages.

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