'Out of control' child abuse pediatricians at Children's Wisconsin allegedly misstate evidence, misdiagnose injuries

A physician lost custody of his daughter and has been charged with a felony after a Children's Wisconsin child abuse team said she was abused, despite contradicting evidence from 15 other experts, NBC News reports.

John Cox, MD, a former emergency room physician at Milwaukee-based Children's Wisconsin, took his 1-month-old adopted daughter to the ER in May 2019. He said he accidentally fell asleep with her in bed, turned on top of her, and was worried her collarbone was injured. 

A nurse practitioner on the hospital's child abuse team identified the infant's birthmarks as bruises, according to seven dermatologists who later reviewed the case. A child abuse pediatrician also misread blood test results, four hematologists said. Two weeks later, Child Protective Services took the infant on the basis of the disputed medical reports.

"In hindsight," Dr. Cox told NBC News, "taking her to our own hospital was the single most harmful decision that we made for our baby."

Other fellow physicians, under the condition of anonymity, described Children's Wisconsin child abuse pediatricians as "out of control" and going too far to help CPS and prosecutors. Three physicians said they had been asked, at one point, by child abuse pediatricians to alter medical records and erase passages where they reported having little or no concern about abuse.

Leaders at Children's Wisconsin have promised to investigate its child abuse specialists after an NBC News investigation published Jan. 27 revealed these internal concerns. After the publication, Executive Vice President Bob Duncan and COO Scott Turner sent an email to staff defending the child abuse team, which they said was one of the best in the U.S.

"That said, as a healthcare organization dedicated to quality, we believe it critically important that we honestly and transparently investigate the concerns raised in the NBC story, and we will do so," the two leaders wrote.

Dr. Cox's attorney filed a motion Jan. 27 to dismiss the case. A hearing is set for Feb. 12.

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