3-year-old boy has gained 7 pounds in less than 3 weeks since mother was arrested and can no longer hurt him.
Exclusive: Psychiatrist may have conflict of interest
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich • THE JERUSALEM POST
The psychiatrist who was appointed by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to examine the haredi mother who allegedly starved her son at the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem was fired a few months ago by the same hospital, which was dissatisfied with his dealings with his patients, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The hospital's pediatricians suspected that the mother suffers from the rare Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) and deliberately caused her toddler harm to get attention and be close to medical facilities.
Dr. Yaakov Weill had worked as a sexologist in a part-time position at Hadassah. He is not among the handful of Israeli experts in MSP.
Weill, who is not Orthodox, was asked by the court to examine the woman from the Toldot Aharon hassidic community, which agreed to his selection. He spent a few hours with the woman, who is being kept under house arrest in the home of a haredi activist, and determined that she did not suffer from MSP, posed no danger to her other children, and was fit to stand trial.
But the court apparently did not investigate Weill's background thoroughly enough to discover that he might have had his own axe to grind with Hadassah, which extremists in haredi community have accused Hadassah of "conducting medical experiments" on the boy.
Moreover, a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics released official guidelines for detecting MSP that stipulated pediatricians - and not psychiatrists - were qualified for this by finding specific signs of abuse and ruling out physical causes for a child's deterioration.
Hadassah pediatricians followed these guidelines exactly during the boy's treatment, which has been strongly criticized by the family and its supporters, Ben-Yehuda said.
They have claimed the boy weighed only seven kilos not because the mother abused him but because he actually had and was treated for cancer - all charges that have been denied by Hadassah.
Meanwhile, the three-year-old boy has gained more than three kilos during less than three weeks of treatment at Hadassah since his mother was arrested. He is able to talk, feed himself and even walk with help, a great change since he weighed only seven kilos and lay on the bed motionless when his mother was at his side.
He will not need hospital care much longer if he is well cared for at home or by relatives elsewhere, said Dr. Yoram Ben-Yehuda, director of Hadassah's pediatric emergency room.
The Post has learned that videos taken of the mother in the child's room - which are in possession of the police - showed her "fiddling" with his gastroscopic feeding tube leading into his stomach. Nurses forbade her from touching it, but her alleged efforts to disconnect the tube continued and were documented.
MSP is regarded by experts in the disease - of which there have been only 2,000 cases around the world in the last six decades - as nearly impossible to diagnose according to psychiatric criteria and to treat.
Nevertheless, the court assigned Weill to examine the woman and recommend whether she was able to stand trial, was mentally ill, required a longer psychiatric examination or was innocent.
Here is what the story looks like if you do not know the Orthodox psychiatrist's background, the details of diagnosing the disorder the mother may have, and the child's amazing recovery post-mother's arrest:
Psychiatrist: 'starved child' mother not unfit to stand trial
By Dan Even • Haaretz Health Correspondent
A court-commissioned psychiatric evaluation of the ultra-Orthodox mother suspected of starving her son did not support claims that she was unfit to stand trial, the examining psychiatrist said.
Jerusalem's District Psychiatrist said he did not accept the results of Dr. Yaakov Meir Weil's examination.
Weil performed the examination at the home of the woman's rabbi, where she is staying in house arrest. Weil, who came there at the request of rabbis from the woman's religious sect as per an agreement between the woman and a judge who arraigned her, also said he could not diagnose the woman "based on a two-hour" talk.
The mother, a Haredi woman from the Eda Haredit group in Jerusalem, was arrested after hospital officials at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, saw her remove a feeding tube from her severely underweight three-year-old child on a hidden camera. She claims that she was trying to feed her son solid foods.
One of the things that Weil had come to ascertain was the possibility that the woman is suffering from Munchausen syndrome - a psychiatric disorder wherein sufferers feign or create disease, illness, or psychological trauma in themselves or in loved ones in order to draw attention or sympathy.
But in a talk with Haaretz, Weil criticized police and doctors at Hadassah who speculated that the mother suffered from this condition. "I hope we can see each other in the future so I can help her. The environment she comes from is not used to requiring psychological services but maybe I can meet her in the future to reach a diagnosis based on the relationship I have with them," he said. "People in Hadassah diagnosed her without her ever meeting a psychiatrist. The talk about the Munchausen syndrome is gossip as far as I'm concerned."
Weil added that the syndrome was "not something that can be diagnosed through a two-hour talk or any sort of simple psychiatric interview."
"In our talk, I saw nothing to convince me she is unfit to stand trial, psychotic or has trouble telling right from wrong," he added.