Lawmaker proposes legislation to protect parental rights in medical decision-making

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Missouri lawmaker is pushing to reinforce parental rights when it comes to the health of their children, and it comes in the wake of a recent Missouri case.

The Missouri Legislative Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect heard testimony from parents who say that their children were taken away when they asked for a second opinion or transfer from a hospital.

"They took my son because they could not manage his pain,” said mom Michelle Rider.

Rider knows how difficult it can be to regain custody of a child. She lost custody of her son, Isaiah, after doctors at an Illinois hospital claimed medical abuse on her part.

On Tuesday, Rider pushed to expose what she calls “medical kidnapping” when she testified before the legislative committee.

“I asked for a second opinion as his mother. I wanted him transferred to a different hospital that could help him,” Rider said.

During the hearing, State Senator Bob Dixon (R-30) revealed that he became familiar with medical kidnapping when he helped a family friend who lost custody of an infant at the suggestion of hospital staff in Arkansas.

"The hospital was afraid of a lawsuit and they used the children's division. That child is now home," Sen. Dixon said.

Representative Ken Wilson (R-12) is proposing “Isaiah's Law.” Rep. Wilson says the law would protect parental rights involving medical decisions.

"A parent should be able in all confidence and security to take their children to any hospital and trust that they are going to get the care that child needs, but they are still in charge,” he said.

Rep. Wilson says in medical abuse cases, children's services remove the children and then its investigation starts.

"That seems backwards to me," he said.

Attorney Shelley Patterson represents two families whose children, she says, have been taken into custody from a Kansas City children's hospital after they asked for a second opinion.

"They (children’s protective services) never reviewed this child's medical record prior to taking him into custody,” Patterson said.

Rep. Wilson says there will be other hearings about this proposed law, but does not know when or of a vote will ever hit the floor on Isaiah's Law. There is opposition to the proposal.

Although members did not speak Tuesday, child advocacy group Missouri KidsFirst sent this statement:

"Missouri KidsFirst opposes Isaiah`s Law because it has the potential to legalize a rare but very real type of child abuse, fabricated caregiver illness or Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. Missouri KidsFirst is thankful that the members of the Missouri General Assembly are well-informed on the issue of child abuse and have taken no action on Isaiah`s Law."