Founding Father of 'Child Abuse Pediatrics' Calls JHAC Defendants 'Conspirators' in Unlawful Acts

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Dr. Eli Newberger has been advocating for abused children his entire career. And that career has been a distinguished one that began at Yale, where he majored in music (he is a tuba player and jazz pianist) and premedical study. After college, Newberger spent two years in the Peace Corps before returning to do residency at both Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is credited with forming the first interdisciplinary child maltreatment team and was instrumental in creating the specialty sub-category of “child abuse pediatrics.”


With this background, Newberger is uniquely qualified to opine on the treatment of Maya Kowalski by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) in Florida, where child abuse pediatrician Sally Smith alleged that Kowalski’s mother, Beata Kowalski, suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The hospital is being sued for false imprisonment for the seven days they detained Maya against her parents’ wishes before there was a court order in place. The traumatic events led to the suicide of Maya’s mother and kept Maya from her family for over three months while she suffered from a painful disease called complex regional pain syndrome alone.

During that time, Maya says JHACH violated her privacy, isolated her from her family, left her in unhygienic conditions, hurt her repeatedly by refusing to listen to her about her pain levels, withheld pain medications, neglected her care, humiliated her, surveilled her, and stripped and photographed her against her consent. All of this was done, according to written evidence gleaned from hospital files, to “prove” Maya did not have CRPS, a diagnosis that has been confirmed by four leading specialists in the field.

Newberger testified for the plaintiff on Friday and called the child protection team at JHACH a group of “conspirators” who agreed to harm a patient in their care as well as her family. “This so-called team represented a group of individuals who together agreed to commit an unlawful act and to harm other individuals,” Newberger said in a televised deposition.


“The separation test that these conspirators proposed was based on a flimsy notion that this child could be hospitalized and weaned from some of her treatments,” Newberger continued. “Medications that allayed pain of her neuropathic syndrome, pain that was excruciating, but [Dr.] Elliot continued to propose the weaning from gabapentin which is one of the neuropathic medications. This separation test in my opinion was preposterously construed and cruelly executed.”

Newberger focused on the medical staff at JHACH appearing to take orders from DCF contracted physician Dr. Sally Smith, who is not a specialist in CRPS or any other disorder and practices general pediatrics, instead of relying on their own expertise or the expertise of Maya’s treating physicians to determine what was wrong with the patient. Newberger made a good case that the medical team at JHACH deviated sharply from the standard of care when it came to Maya Kowalski.

“There was nothing rigorous at all among the various professionals who suspected a conversion disorder but did not conduct a rigorous assessment of it,” he said.

Interestingly, defense attorneys tried to discredit Newberger by asking if he was “board certified” in child abuse pediatrics. Newberger is board-certified in pediatrics with a sub-specialty in child abuse, but his reasons for not getting the board certification in “child abuse pediatrics” should make all of us pause. Not only was he a founding father of the field, but he was in the room when the specialty was being created. Newberger disagreed with the consensus of the other doctors who wanted to call the field “child abuse pediatrics.” Newberger wanted a field called “forensic pediatrics” that would take a multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse to avoid the false diagnoses of abuse that are plaguing the nation. Newberger refused to take the board-certification test for the new field of “child abuse pediatrics” because he knew it would devolve into what we are seeing today: untrained, incurious, authoritarian know-nothings who terrorize families with their ignorance.


“I objected for the following reasons,” Newberger said. “If we were to call this ‘child abuse pediatrics’ what it would result in would be a small field of people who would be assigned the task in hospitals of thumbs up or down, is this child abuse or not? And that was an overly-simple technical function and further, it couldn’t be based on any body of science which would justify creating a new specialty with this name.”

Newberger had a better idea for how the field should be created. “I argued it would be far better to call this specialty— taking cognizance of the fields of forensic psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, and forensic pathology—to call this ‘forensic pediatrics’ which would have as its foundation child development, family development, behavioral science as it manifests in relationships, and in violence in relationships, biodynamics in regard to the transmission of various vectors and forces and flames and the like that impelled injury, which would be understood in those frames.” Of course, all that takes a whole lot of time, expertise, training, and probably years of study. It’s far easier and faster to just certify a bunch of dunces to do the will of the state. If you put educated people in the field of “child abuse pediatrics,” how would the state increase the number of children in its care to fill its coffers with all those sweet, sweet federal funds?

Dr. Newberger’s ideas wouldn’t be popular with the low-IQ powers that be. His focus on careful study and scientific rigor is simply too much trouble for the ruling authorities and would result in far fewer allegations of child abuse, which would put a dent in the state’s (and colluding hospitals’) pocketbooks. Why be careful and scientific when you can use a wide brush, take thousands more children, free up millions in funds, and get immunity when it all goes wrong?


Dr. Newberger tried to convince the other founders of his more rounded and grounded approach but failed. The consensus was to go with “child abuse pediatrics” with no other requirements than a general pediatric background. After that, Newberger declined to be a part of their club.

“I decided as one of the founders of this field that I would not take this exam and instead I would apply to the peer-referenced group, the Ray Heller Society to be an emeritus member. And they happily accepted me.”

It should worry us all that an undisputed celebrated scholar and founder of the field of caring for abused children in a medical setting believes the entire field is a joke. This could be the root of the problem. Child abuse pediatrics appears to be a field where the entrants to it merely have to have a medical degree with a general practice in pediatrics and a few years of following around another child abuse pediatrician like Sally Smith to qualify. Perhaps our standards are far too low.

On a separate but humorous note, the attempt to “gotcha” Dr. Newberger by exposing that he doesn’t have a “child abuse pediatrics” board certification backfired spectacularly on the defense. A simple Google search could have avoided this for them, but, instead, they ended up having to listen to the guy who founded the program explain why it’s terribly flawed and why no one should be board-certified in “child abuse pediatrics.” This is a fun clip. It is the equivalent of a lawyer putting Archimedes on the stand and asking if he’s “board-certified” in engineering and math.


The Kowalski story has been featured in a Netflix documentary called “Take Care of Maya,” which highlights several other families harmed by Dr. Sally Smith and JHACH’s other incurious dullards in white coats. The trial continues next week with the plaintiff’s case coming to a close early Monday or Tuesday. I’m very much looking forward to the defendants taking a crack at explaining to the public why their hospital appears to be jam-packed with bands of low-intelligence criminal conspirators actively trying to harm families.


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