Johns Hopkins All Children's faces backlash in wake of Netflix documentary

St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is facing media criticism after a Netflix documentary, Take Care of Maya, shows 10-year-old Maya Kowalski being sheltered at the hospital due to allegations of child abuse that were never proved, the Tampa Bay Times reported June 23. 

The documentary, which was the second-most-watched movie on the platform as of June 22, features Maya Kowalski and her mother; Johns Hopkins All Children's twice reported her mother to the state's abuse hotline alleging child medical abuse. 

Maya's mother, Beata Kowalski, was ordered not to have physical contact with her daughter, and Ms. Kowalski ended up taking her own life after 87 days. 

The allegations of child medical abuse were never proved, according to the publication. 

A lawsuit has been filed against All Children's; Sally Smith, MD, a pediatric physician and former medical director of the Pinellas County Child Protection Team; and Catherine Bedy, a hospital social worker employed by a third party. 

Johns Hopkins All Children's told Becker's that Ms. Bedy and Dr. Smith are not employees of its hospital. 

According to court records, during Maya's stay, she was allegedly "videotaped for 48 hours and, on another occasion, stripped down to her underwear and photographed without the permission of her parents."

The nonprofit that employed Dr. Smith was also named in the lawsuit and settled with the Kowalski family for $2.5 million. Dr. Smith retired from her position as medical director in July.

The lawsuit is expected to go to a jury trial in September, according to the publication. 

The documentary caused an uproar on social platforms, leading the hospital to temporarily disable comments as there has been a "significant increase in inappropriate engagement," All Children's told Becker's.

The hospital also told Becker's it values the safety and privacy of all its patients and families. 

"We follow federal privacy laws that limit the amount of information we can release regarding any particular case," the hospital said. "Our first responsibility is always to the child brought to us for care, and we are legally obligated to notify the Department of Children and Families (DCF) when we detect signs of possible abuse or neglect. It is DCF that investigates the situation and makes the ultimate decision about what course of action is in the best interest of the child."

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