Update: 4:05 p.m. from the Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) – A former emergency room doctor at Children’s Hospital Wisconsin, charged with physically abusing a newborn he was adopting with his wife, denies he did anything wrong and wants the case dismissed next month.
The case is receiving tremendous scrutiny by the medical community around the county, with physicians disagreeing on what exactly caused the injuries to the adoptive daughter of 39-year-old John M. Cox and his wife, Sadie Dobrozsi, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s. They have hired more than a dozen experts to question the conclusions from Children’s physicians, whose initial investigation led to Cox’s charges eight moths ago.
NBC News first reported Cox’s story Monday. The organization has been partnering with the Houston Chronicle on investigative stories about mistaken abuse accusations, child protective services and family separations.
Cox’s legal troubles began when he woke up after accidentally falling asleep while cuddling the 1-month-old girl one morning in May, NBC News reported. Panicking and thinking he must’ve hurt her somehow when he heard her cry, he thought perhaps he’d accidentally broken her collarbone. It’s a common injury in infants that heals by itself, NBC News reported.
A nurse practitioner on the hospital’s child abuse team confused birthmarks for bruises, according to seven dermatologists who reviewed the case. Blood tests were misinterpreted and hospital staff made misstatements, according to the NBC News investigation. Two weeks later, Child Protective Services took the child, who Cox and Dobrozsi were in the process of adopting. They have not seen her since.
“In hindsight,” Cox told NBC News, “taking her to our own hospital was the single most harmful decision that we made for our baby.”
Prosecutors and Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families declined to comment because it’s a child welfare investigation. Children’s Wisconsin declined to comment and didn’t respond to written questions, saying instead in a joint statement with the Medical College of Wisconsin that “prevention of child abuse and neglect is core to Children’s mission of caring for kids.”
At a court hearing Tuesday in Milwaukee, a judge granted prosecutors request for a gag order regarding parts of the case that fall under medical confidentiality, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Stephanie Rothstein also set a hearing on Feb. 12 to hear Cox’s arguments for why his case should be dropped. He faces felony child abuse-intentionally cause harm.
Cox’s attorney, Michael Levine, said prosecutors have incomplete information in their charging document.
“The criminal complaint, in this case, is entirely devoid of any factual assertions that would support a finding of probable cause that Dr. Cox intentionally committed child abuse,” the motion for dismissal read. “The conclusion the state proffers as a mechanism of injury is a theory unsupported by medical data, but moreover, is not attributed to any specific conduct or actions of Dr. Cox.”
An ER doctor at Children’s Wisconsin faces child abuse charges, but his story is raising questions about the system and methods used to reach that finding.
Dr. John Cox tells NBC News he accidentally fell asleep with his one-month-old adopted daughter last May, when he woke up hearing her crying. Thinking he might’ve accidentally laid on top of her, he thought she might’ve suffered a broken collarbone. His wife–also a doctor who was out of town at the time–told him to get the girl checked out.
In the end, Child Protective Services took the baby, placing the girl in foster care after an evaluation found bruising that raised child abuse concerns, findings Cox and his wife dispute, along with some 15 other medical professionals.
Mike Hixenbaugh of NBC News is the investigative reporter who broke this story. He joined Wisconsin’s Morning News with more on the case and what happens next. Listen to the interview in the player above.