Chandler parents face felony child abuse charges after failing to take sick son to ER – 12news.com KPNX

Chandler parents face felony child abuse charges after failing to take sick son to ER - 12news.com KPNX
Police raid of Arizona home over child with high fever shows limits of parental rights
PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) — Officers wielding pistols and ballistic shields kicked in the door of a suburban Phoenix home in the middle of the night to bring a sick 2-year-old boy to a hospital after his mother refused a doctor's advice to get him to an emergency room for what was thought to be a potentially life-threatening illness.

The doctor called child-welfare authorities on Feb. 25 after the mother didn't show up at the agreed-upon emergency room, leading police in Chandler to knock on their family's door to check on the condition of the boy, who earlier in the day had a fever of 105°F (41°C) and was suspected to have meningitis.

The complicated saga began with a scorching fever. At around 5 p.m. on Feb. 25, Beck brought her son into the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicines clinic, police records say. The doctor there recorded the boys temperature and discovered it was above 105 degrees. After consulting with staff at two area hospitals, the doctor told Beck that since her son was showing possible signs of a life-threatening illness that she was unable to test for at the clinic, the mother should bring the toddler to the emergency room as quickly as possible. (Attorneys said at a court hearing earlier this month that the doctor had feared that the 2-year-old had meningitis, the Republic reported.)

A mom refused to take her unvaccinated toddler to the hospital for a fever. Armed police officers tore down the door.

Body-cam footage of officers raiding a home at the request of the Department of Child Safety has been released by the Chandler Police Department. Police released about 11 minutes of footage breaking down what happened that night. It starts with a knock on the door, multiple calls, and ends with police forcing entry. 

Police kick down door after parents refuse to take unvaccinated child to the hospital

The parents, who said the boy was improving after his fever broke, refused repeated requests by officers to open the door, so authorities got a court order allowing them to take temporary custody of the boy. Once inside, authorities discovered that the boy's 4- and 6-year-old siblings also had been vomiting, so another order was obtained to take the older children into temporary custody.

Beck initially refused, the police report says. She told the naturopathic doctor that she feared that the hospital would report her to the Arizona Department of Child Safety for failing to vaccinate her child, and that her husband, who was in favor of vaccination, would be upset by the situation. (In fact, Arizona parents can opt out of vaccinations for personal, religious or medical reasons.) After being assured that she wouldnt get reported to the authorities, she relented. The clinic doctor sent them to a nearby childrens hospital, and called the emergency room and asked them to let her know when Beck had showed up.

A month after the encounter, parents Sarah Beck and Brooks Bryce still don't have their children back.

On Thursday, authorities released body-camera footage from the incident and explained that they decided to “force entry” because the 2-year-old childs health and well-being were in danger, and he needed immediate medical attention. But critics contend that the parents were well within their rights to determine that a costly hospital visit was unnecessary, and that the dramatic late-night raid may have done irreparable damage to their three young children. More than a month later, all three children are still in foster care, according to the Arizona Republic. Bryce and Beck are now fighting to get them back.

Police have recommended to prosecutors that they file child abuse charges against the parents, who weren't arrested as a result of the incident.

According to Patheos, an online outlet covering religion, the childrens removal from their parents home led to a viral conspiracy theory that quickly spread on anti-vaccination Facebook groups, claiming that unvaccinated children were being “stolen” by the authorities. “Almost immediately, discussions broke out that Arizona DCS was kidnapping unvaccinated children to sell them into foster care,” the site reported. “Many said that unvaccinated children are highly in demand because they are incredibly healthy. Several discussed an Arizona kidnapping cartel.”

Nicholas Boca, an attorney representing the boy's mother, declined to comment on why the three children haven't been reunited with their parents, citing laws that prevent him from providing information that specifically identifies the parties in the case.

When contacted by The Post on Thursday night, Townsend was somewhat more restrained, saying she understood the doctors perspective of better safe than sorry. The situation might have ended differently if the parents had opened their door and talked to police, she acknowledged. Still, Townsend said, she could easily understand the decision to hold off on an expensive trip to the emergency room, given that the child no longer had a high fever. The case raises larger questions about parents rights to make decisions about their childrens care, she added.

Bryce declined a request by The Associated Press to comment, and his attorney, Tim Nelson, didn't return a phone call seeking comment on his client's behalf.

After sitting in on the familys juvenile court hearing this month, Townsend expressed concerns that the children had been permanently traumatized by being separated and placed into foster care after police broke down their door and placed their father in handcuffs. On Facebook, she described the episode as “a complete miscarriage of justice and a shame to the State of Arizona,” and called for the children to be returned immediately. Speaking to the Republic, she compared officials actions to that of the Gestapo.

Attorney Benjamin Taylor weighed in on the potential child abuse charges the parents face and on their chances of regaining custody of their children.

“We located the other two children in their bedroom which was covered in stains of unknown origin,” one officer wrote. “The children advised us they had vomited several times in their beds and had stains around their mouths. One child told me that their stomach hurt.” All three children were taken to the hospital, then placed in foster care. According to the Republic, the 2-year-old was ultimately diagnosed with a respiratory virus. The other children do not appear to have had any serious medical issues.

"For putting their child in harm's way, that's one charge, which would be a felony charge," Taylor said. "The parents may have a defense of saying, 'Hey, the child was never gonna [be[ in harm, they weren't gonna die. And if they have proof that the child was fine and this is how the child normally could be when it's sick, the parents may have a legal right to defend the case."

She never did. Instead, at around 6:30 p.m., Beck called the clinic again and said that she had bought a thermometer on the way home, and that it was showing that her sons temperature had dropped, according to the police report. She later told KPHO that her son has been “acting normal” and “dancing with his sisters in his car seat” after they left the clinic, and that his temperature had fallen to 102. When they got home, it dropped even more, Beck said.

While police said the forced entry was justified to tend to a child with a possible dangerous illness, critics say the door-breaking was more fitting for drug dealers, not parents who made a medical decision for their child.

After about an hour, DCS obtained a court order allowing them to temporarily take custody of the 2-year-old child for emergency medical treatment. Shortly before midnight, the officers once again asked Bryce to talk to them outside. He reportedly told them that he wasnt going to be forced to take his child to the hospital and wind up with a “three grand” bill. Police gave one more warning, then busted down the door just before 1:30 a.m.

An attorney representing the mother said the boy, as it turns out, ended up having a respiratory infection, not meningitis.

A police report said the mother brought the boy to a medical office in Tempe where a doctor told her to get further treatment at a hospital.

“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend told the paper. “The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?”

Though the mother initially refused to do so out of fear of the repercussions of not having the child vaccinated, she eventually agreed to take him to an emergency room. The doctor, who had learned that the mother had ignored the medical advice, then called child-welfare authorities, according to the police report.

The parents of a sick 2-year-old with a dangerously high fever and no vaccinations refused to take him to a hospital emergency room or talk face-to-face with police and department of child safety representatives to confirm his welfare.

Once officers were inside the family's home, they found a shotgun, unsecured, in the parents' bedroom.

Chandler police declined to comment on the encounter with the couple, but a statement released several weeks ago said that officers were acting under a law that lets a court order the temporary removal of children who are believed to be suffering from abuse or neglect.

When Beck didnt show up, the doctor ultimately called the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), which led to police and department officials showing up on the familys doorstep for a welfare check.

State law also lets police officers use reasonable force to enter a building where such children are believed to be located.

Court documents from the case, like other removal proceedings in Arizona, aren't available because they aren't considered to be public record.

Shes one of the lawmakers who helped put together the legislation requiring DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from their parents or guardians in non-emergency circumstances.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety declined to provide any specifics on the case, such as whether it was proper for an officer to kick in the door.

After checking with area hospitals, the doctor told her that her son was showing possible signs of meningitis and needed to be taken to the emergency room for testing.

Boca said the forced entry was traumatic to the family. "That type of force is reserved for violent criminals, not a house full of young sleeping children," Boca said.

Chandler Police submitted charges of child abuse for each parent to the Maricopa Country Attorney's Office, which should now be under review. 

CHANDLER, AZ (Gray News) – The police video shows officers breaking down the door of a home in a Phoenix subdivision in the middle of the night.

The decision by armed Arizona police officers to force their way into the home of two parents who had refused to take their feverish young son to a hospital has raised troubling questions about parental responsibility and potential medical neglect, and what some might see as excessive law enforcement tactics.

In February, when Sarah Beck brought her son to a naturopathic doctor he was running a 105 degree. Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine.

But amid the debate, health and legal experts who spoke to NBC News emphasized that parents who decline to seek medical care when their child is experiencing a potentially life-threatening condition have relatively little legal protection, and in some extreme cases the state can override their ability to make health care decisions.

Both parents were charged with one count each of child abuse. Their three children are now in foster care, the Arizona Republic reported.

Given that the child in this case had a temperature of more than 105, Arizona authorities were at “the threshold at which the state is reasonable in intervening because it has an independent duty to protect the child if the parents are unwilling or unable to do so,” said Douglas Diekema, the director of education at the center for pediatric bioethics at Seattle Childrens Hospital.

The parents, who said the boy was improving after his fever broke, refused repeated requests by officers to open the door, so authorities got a court order allowing them to take temporary custody of the boy. Once inside, authorities discovered that the boy’s 4- and 6-year-old siblings also had been vomiting, so another order was obtained to take the older children into temporary custody.

“Thats why we have child neglect and abuse laws, after all,” said Diekema, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

PHOENIX (AP) — Officers wielding pistols and ballistic shields kicked in the door of a suburban Phoenix home in the middle of the night to bring a sick 2-year-old boy to a hospital after his mother refused a doctor’s advice to get him to an emergency room for what was thought to be a potentially life-threatening illness.

Sarah Beck, the mother in this case, brought her 2-year-old son to Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine on Feb. 25, at which time she was told the boy had a temperature of more than 105, according to reports by the Chandler Police Department.

The doctor believed the child could be suffering from meningitis, a potentially, life-threatening illness, and it could not be tested for at the clinic, so she told Beck to take the toddler to the hospital, according to a police report. Beck was reluctant because her son wasnt vaccinated, and she feared “possible repercussions,” the report said.

Though the mother initially refused to do so out of fear of the repercussions of not having the child vaccinated, she eventually agreed to take him to an emergency room. The doctor, who had learned that the mother had ignored the medical advice, then called child-welfare authorities, according to the police report.

When the doctor learned later that day the child had never made it to the hospital, she called the state Department of Child Safety, which in turn contacted the police department in Chandler, Arizona, because “there was a present danger to health/wellbeing and that he required immediate medical attention.” The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News this week.

Chandler police declined to comment on the encounter with the couple, but a statement released several weeks ago said that officers were acting under a law that lets a court order the temporary removal of children who are believed to be suffering from abuse or neglect.

Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the New York University School of Medicine, agreed that a 105-degree temperature is indeed life-threatening, and added that the case came down to protecting the life of the child.

Nicholas Boca, an attorney representing the boy’s mother, declined to comment on why the three children haven’t been reunited with their parents, citing laws that prevent him from providing information that specifically identifies the parties in the case.

“The ethical principle is that if your child is in imminent risk of dying, and if its likely that medical attention could reverse that, then as a parent you dont have the right to allow your child to die,” said Caplan, who has contributed commentary to NBC News in the past.

In most states, certain public officials and healthcare professionals are generally required to report to state authorities if they believe the life of a child is endangered because of their parents decisions, said Kathleen Hoke, professor of public health policy at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

Boca said the forced entry was traumatic to the family. “That type of force is reserved for violent criminals, not a house full of young sleeping children,” Boca said.

But the circumstances of the Arizona raid — officers had pistols and ballistic shields drawn, and the body camera footage at times resembles video from a drug seizure — stirred debate about law enforcement tactics.

They treated us like criminals, busting in our door, the boys father, Brooks Bryce, told a local television station. I mean, I dont know what kind of trauma that did to my kids.

Chandler police have recommended to prosecutors that they file child abuse charges against the Bryce and Beck, who were not arrested as a result of the incident.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety declined to provide any specifics on the case, such as whether it was proper for an officer to kick in the door.

Becks reluctance to take her son to a hospital because he was purportedly not vaccinated may have been unfounded, according to James Hodge, a professor of public health law and ethics at the Arizona State University Sandra Day OConnor College of Law. He pointed out that Arizona allows parents to opt out of vaccinations for philosophical, religious or medical reasons.

It was not immediately clear if the parents in the Arizona case were based their medical decisions on personal or religious beliefs. Whats more, the parents have suggested they chose not to take their young son to the hospital because his high temperature had purportedly gone down.

But details in the police report were potentially troubling: It said that when officers entered the house, two other children were found “in their bedroom, which was covered in stains of unknown origin.” It also said: “The children advised us they had vomited several times in their beds, and had stains around their mouths.”

Ultimately, according to Hodge, authorities were right to intervene in what could have been a potentially deadly situation.

“If youve got legitimate reasons to believe a childs health is in peril because of the parents resistance to treatment, thats legit,” Hodge said. “Its abuse.”


Posted in Chandler