There are only 350 doctors in the entire nation certified to recognize and treat child abuse, so the doctor who saw the 8-year-old child — now a murder victim — at the heart of an Illinois trial was arguably an expert.
However, three weeks before the little girl died from horrific abuse at the hands of her grandmother, the doctor reported that he saw no signs of potential abuse.
He admitted to seeing a few marks on her legs and buttocks, but said that they weren’t suspicious in nature. Her grandmother — who was also her abuser — blamed the marks on the child, saying she had a habit of picking at scabs.
The grandmother went to jail. The doctor became the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the child’s mother and maternal grandfather.
Aside from not taking a more careful look at the marks on the child, one of which appeared to be in the shape of a loop, the doctor failed to interview the child apart from her grandmother. With her abuser in the exam room with her, the child would hardly be likely to speak up and admit to abuse out of fear of inciting more of the same.
The girl died just three weeks later of massive injuries. Her condition was so bad that some of the jurors — including men — broke down in tears at the sight. So did a seasoned homicide detective when he testified on the stand.
Another doctor, a retired pediatrician, testified that the expert should have considered the child’s injuries and her urinary tract infection as telltale signs of abuse. A social worker should have been notified.
The jury’s verdict essentially means that they didn’t consider the grandmother to be the sole cause of the child’s death. The doctor also failed her by being negligent and not questioning the marks he did see more carefully or questioning the child alone.
It’s important to note that negligence isn’t always something that a doctor does — like making a mistake with a surgical knife or giving the wrong medication to a patient. Sometimes medical negligence is simply a failure to act in a way that is reasonable under the circumstances.
Had the doctor done so in this case, a child might still be alive.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Torture death of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford leads to $48M jury award over doctor missteps,” Steve Schmadeke, Dec. 14, 2017