Disabled boy, 4, removed from parents over "medical neglect"

John Hunter Hospital where the boy was taken by paramedics on Friday night and where his mother was arrested.
John Hunter Hospital where the boy was taken by paramedics on Friday night and where his mother was arrested.

A FOUR-year-old boy at the centre of fervid debate about anti-vaccination and alternative medicine has been deemed “at risk of serious harm” and taken into the care of authorities, triggering impassioned outrage from supporters on social media who labelled it a “medical kidnapping”. 

In a since-deleted video posted to Facebook, police and Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) officers are seen removing the child, who has severe disabilities, from the Church of Ubuntu in Hunter Street, Newcastle, on Friday night. His mother, who has amassed a huge following online, where she advocates the use of “medicinal cannabis and a healthy organic diet” to treat her son’s condition, and decries the use of “western medicine”, can be seen arguing with police and FACS workers. 

“I understand you're upset … but we can't leave here without the child,” a police officer can be heard saying. 

The woman recording the video says: “the police are trying to take [the child] … they are going to put him on poisonous food and medicine again.”

In another video posted online, the child’s mother can be seen getting arrested at John Hunter Hospital, where an ambulance had transported her son. 

Police confirmed they had gone to the premises in Hunter Street in support of FACS workers “regarding a child at risk”. 

“After extensive negotiations a four-year-old boy was taken to John Hunter hospital for medical assessment,” a police spokesman said.

Police also said the parents of the child were arrested for breach of the peace, but had not been charged. 

According to a document being circulated on social media, the court order for removal was issued because FACS was satisfied the child was “at immediate risk of serious harm” due to “medical neglect” and “malnutrition”. The wheelchair-bound child, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was last month the subject of an interstate amber alert after his parents took him from Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital before doctors could administer treatment.

On that occasion, the family were found in Newcastle and the child was taken to John Hunter Hospital, before being released into the care of his parents.

Media reports stated they had taken refuge at the Church of Ubuntu, a “wellness centre” in Newcastle that prescribes medicinal cannabis and was raided by police investigating an alleged hydroponic marijuana growing operation in December last year.  

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 states it is illegal to publish the identify of a child in care. 

According to the FACS document being circulated online, the child was taken from his parents due to the result of a blood test taken during his stay at John Hunter Hospital in late April, which, according to the document, indicated his level of potassium was at a “critically abnormal level”. 

“[This] can place him at risk of life-threatening cardiac cardiac arrhythmia and muscle weakness,” the document states.

“These results are consistent with a child suffering from malnutrition.

“Since that time, his parents have failed to attend for the required follow-up medical appointments at John Hunter Hospital.

“Medical staff notified the parents that it is “critically important” that [the child’s] potassium level was checked by May 17 and gave them options of doing this that didn’t involve them having to go to the hospital.”

The child’s mother can be heard on one of the videos of her son’s removal telling police and FACS workers that she was “seeing a doctor on Monday” in relation to his potassium levels. 

A FACS spokesman declined to confirm the veracity of the document, but provided a statement on the issue. 

“On Friday, Family and Community Services (FACS) staff responded to a child safety incident in Newcastle,” the spokesman said. 

“The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) understands that at times the public’s concern is at odds with our statutory requirement to protect privacy. 

“Nevertheless, in the interest of statutory privacy, FACS cannot comment on this matter. Publication of this sensitive information can often have an adverse impact on a child and can expose the child and family further trauma or stress.”

An online petition urging Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull to “bring the boy home” had more than 20,000 signatures as of Sunday night. 

In an online biography of their son, the parents wrote that he was born healthy but claimed that after having a vitamin K injection within 10 minutes of birth he started having seizures.

They said that after further vaccinations during his first few days of life, his seizures would come back worse than before. 

The parents alleged it caused him to develop "spastic, quadriplegic cerebral palsy and undiagnosed, uncontrolled epilepsy".

However, nothing could be found on brain scans, but both parents believe their son was damaged by the vaccinations.

The family claim medicinal cannabis had improved the boy’s condition.  

A NSW Police spokesman said the latest update on Sunday was that the child was still being cared for in John Hunter Hospital.