Psychiatrists disputed over 'starving mom' case
Case of haredi woman suspected of starving toddler son faces yet another hurdle as Jerusalem district psychiatrist, court appointed colleague disagree on whether she poses a danger to her surroundings
Efrat Weiss • Ynet
The case of the haredi woman suspected of starving her three-year-old son faced yet another obstacle Thursday, as the Jerusalem district psychiatrist rejected the psychiatric evaluation filed with the capital's Magistrate's Court by Dr. Yaakov Weil, the psychiatrist appointed to the case, as "inconclusive."
The district psychiatrist informed the court that while he agreed with Weil's conclusion that the woman did not suffer from Münchausen Syndrome by proxy, he did not share Weil's determination as to how dangerous the woman may be to her surroundings.
"During the first stages of the case we refused to have her examined by the district psychiatrist," Attorney David Halevy, who is representing the mother, told reporters after the hearing.
"Eventually she was evaluated by Dr. Weil, who was acceptable to both the State and the (ultra-Orthodox) community. Dr. Weil offered unequivocal conclusions, and determined that my client poses no danger to her children and can return home.
"The police apparently found this conclusion unsatisfactory, because the district psychiatrist was called on… and in some peculiar, unexplained way, there is now a brief that says the Dr, Weil's conclusions are unacceptable and that the Parole Service should get involved.
"I'm sure that if Dr, Weil's conclusions were to the contrary, such a brief would not exist," he concluded.
House arrest stands
Justice Shulamit Dotan, presiding over the hearing, suggested that the woman be allowed return to her home for the duration of her house arrest – she was originally released to the custody of haredi lobbyist Avraham Froelich – and that a court-appointed nurse be present at the family home in order to ensure the children's safety, but the State adamantly objected to the move.
Thursday's hearing in the case ended with the court ruling that the woman's conditions of house arrest will remain unchanged at this time.
Froelich himself slammed the district psychiatrist's report as "libel" and did not spare his criticism from the State Prosecutor's Office and Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, where the toddler is hospitalized, as well: "The prosecution can't say that one part of the evaluation is acceptable and the other isn’t. You are trying to separate a woman from her child. This kind of scandal is unheard of.
"The entire secular community should beg for the mother and family's forgiveness. This is a wonderful, noble woman… The seculars in Israel boast about equal rights and respect for women and they dare slam the haredi community for supposedly not respecting women, but the opposite is true. In the religious and haredi communities women are revered, for they are the ones who maintain the continuity of the generations in Israel."
The point of the evaluation was to determine several things: 1) The mental status of the mother. 2) Her clinical diagnosis. 3) Her ability to stand trial. 4) The danger she may or may not pose to her children. 5) The danger she may or may not pose to herself. 6) The danger she may or may not pose to anyone else.
The point of the psychiatric evaluation was never meant to work like this this: A) The woman does or doesn't have a particular diagnosis. B) The woman is not a danger to anyone else. C) The Woman is not a danger to herself. D) Therefore set her free without trial, or, E) Set her free and allow her free access to her children before trail.
A woman who has been arrested and remanded for abusing her child cannot be given free access to that child before trial. Similarly, she cannot be set free. She must at bare minimum be placed in a situation where her contact with children is completely controlled by welfare officials. At the same time, her trial must be held as speedily as possible with no delays. If she is innocent, the time she spends away from her children – time correctly put in place to protect those children – must be as short as humanly possible.
All that said, haredi leaders are behaving wrongly. Their concern is not for the family or the children or even for the woman or her husband. Their concern is for their own political power.
They use this issue as club to beat the secular state and as a whip to spur their flocks into action.
A child weighed only 15 pounds – about half of what he should weigh. That child does not have cancer and did not undergo chemotherapy or radiation, as haredi leaders falsely claimed. That child starved.
Did he starve because of actions allegedly taken by the mother: withholding food, disconnection feeding tubes, and inducing vomiting? Or did he starve for some other, unknown reason?
Those are questions that must be answered by the court.
Until they are, this mother cannot be allowed unfettered access to children.
That haredi leaders do not understand this (or do not care about this) is truly tragic.