They thought they had the right to get a second opinion. They thought they had the right as parents to have proof of a diagnosis before agreeing to a treatment plan.
When California parents Leah Beabout and Christopher Vega asked for medical evidence before doctors remove their 2 year old daughter’s kidney, the hospital called Child Protective Services and seized custody of their child.
Leah and their daughter Grace Alleluia had been visiting in Las Vegas when Leah felt a lump in her daughter’s side. An emergency room doctor told her that it was a mass that might be cancer and that she would need to have her kidney removed immediately. Asking for a second opinion triggered a nightmare cascade of events that they never saw coming.
It is the kind of thing that they, like most parents, thought “couldn’t happen in America.”
But as we at Health Impact News have seen and documented, medical kidnappings like this happen regularly all over the United States of America.
Meanwhile, little Grace Alleluia Beabout-Vega underwent major surgery on Thursday, January 25, 2018, that may not have been necessary, one which her parents only agreed to under great duress and the threat of never getting their daughter back.
Leah and Chris are thankful that the surgeon at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital did not remove their daughter’s kidney yesterday, even though that was the hospital’s plan. Doctors did a biopsy during the surgery, but the parents say that could have been done as a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery rather than the major surgery which has left a scar across her entire belly.
According to Leah Beabout:
I brought my daughter Grace Alleluia to the ER on vacation. Two weeks later, she has NO MOTHER, NO diagnosis, NO symptoms other than having lost 2 lbs, a large incision in her belly and a PORT hole in her chest for chemo she might not even need, a catheter in urinary tract, a breathing tube!??
A child who has never even had a baby-sitter before has been separated from her parents at what may be the most frightening time in her life, the very time that she needs her mommy and daddy the most.
The hospital just didn’t want us interfering with what they wanted to do and we were asking too many questions.
As Grace’s parents who love her and want the best for her, Leah and Chris simply wanted:
- a valid second opinion,
- the ability to make an informed decision as to treatment plan, including the right to choose the facility to treat her and the course of action to take, and
- the right to have evidence of a diagnosis before agreeing to treatment.
Do parents no longer have this right? If doctors don’t want to provide these answers to the parents responsible for their child’s care, is the new normal to call Child Protective Services and do the procedures they want to do anyway?
Cancer Allegedly Diagnosed Without Biopsy
The family lives in Ventura County, California. They were forced to evacuate their home on December 6, 2017, after the Thomas Fire broke out in their area. The fire which damaged their home and which ultimately burned 281,893 acres, was not completely contained until January 12, 2018, according to the City of Ventura’s website.
Christopher stayed in California, while Leah, a professional hip hop singer, took Grace with her to Las Vegas during this time to work on recording a children’s album.
When Leah noticed a lump on Grace’s side, she took her to the emergency room at University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. She said that they did an x-ray and a CT scan and found a mass on her kidney. On that basis, Dr. Alan Iketa came in and said that Grace most likely had a Wilms tumor.
Before she could begin to process what they were telling her, Leah says that the doctor came in and said that they were scheduling Grace to have her kidney removed.
She could not understand how they were diagnosing cancer without even doing a biopsy or further testing first. Her little girl showed no symptoms of any problems – no fever, no pain, no lethargy or reduction of activity. There was only the lump that had just recently appeared.
Yet, the doctors wanted to remove a vital organ.
Leah asked doctors at UMC if she could drive her daughter home with Christopher to California so they could be closer to home and family in case it really was cancer and so they could get a second opinion. The doctors refused.
Dr. Alan Ikeda of UMC reportedly told the parents that he had a colleague at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital in California, and they would be permitted to transfer there. Dr. Ikeda previously worked as a doctor of hematology and oncology at UCLA.
However, Grace was not allowed to go with her family. She had to be flown to UCLA with a private company that works with the hospital, at a cost of $9,500.
Grace arrived at UCLA hospital on Friday, January 12. Leah says that she thought that they were going to do more testing to find out what was wrong, but she was horrified to see that her daughter’s name was already on the surgery board at the hospital showing that she was going to have her kidney removed on Wednesday.
Doctors told the parents that they planned to start chemotherapy within a few weeks, after removing her kidney. They later said that the tumor and the kidney were “one and the same,” thus the kidney had to be removed in order to get the alleged tumor.
The parents were told that Grace’s kidney had failed, but that didn’t make sense to them. Leah says that the kidney function tests were normal.
Leah asked the staff to provide them with medical evidence that Grace had cancer and that her kidney needed to be removed. She requested a second opinion and copies of her daughter’s medical records, so that they, as parents, could make an informed decision.
We were asking questions about alternative options and less invasive procedures.
She told Health Impact News that she didn’t want to agree to any procedures until they could see written documentation of a diagnosis.
2 Year Old Daughter Medically Kidnapped
For that, the hospital staff called Child Protective Services.
Leah and Christopher attended a cancer team meeting with doctors and staff on Tuesday, January 16, at 11:30 a.m. in which, again, they asked for documentation. They reiterated that they did not want their daughter’s kidney removed without proof of a diagnosis, and they wanted less invasive options.
That very afternoon, Ventura County social workers came into the hospital and seized temporary custody of Grace Alleluia.
UCLA Hospital social worker Marla Knoll had reportedly petitioned the Ventura County Court for custody of Grace on the grounds that Leah refused treatment – an allegation that was not true. She simply wanted proof that it was truly necessary for such drastic steps, as removing a major organ, to be taken.
A court order had been signed at 8 a.m. that morning, before the team meeting even took place.
According to Star Squires, an advocate for patients with rare diseases, social workers:
told her IF she would sign a 10-day consent to treatment, that she MAY be able to keep her parental rights. She signed under duress, and is only being allowed supervised visits.
Social workers also reportedly told the court that Leah Beabout was homeless and unemployed in an apparent attempt to paint the mother in a poor light. The family had been displaced by the fires, but they were not homeless. As a musician, she doesn’t work for an employer, but she does work.
Traumatized and Frightened
Grace has never been separated from her parents before. She has heard doctors and nurses talk about cancer in her presence, yet in this most terrifying time of her life, she is alone.
She is in a hospital, in a frightening situation, with strangers poking and prodding her, but she is not allowed to have her parents with her when she needs them the most.
Leah says that Grace is showing signs of being traumatized. She is self-harming – scratching and biting herself, which is something that she has never done before.
Her lips are chapped and her fingernails are jagged.
She has also lost weight. Leah says that the hospital staff have not been feeding Grace. Food that the parents bring to the hospital for her is still there the next time they come to visit.
CPS denied Grace the ability to have her mother with her before and after the surgery, further adding to her trauma. Her father was allowed to be with her, but she was not able to see her mother till midday the day after the surgery.
Do They Know Yet What Is Wrong with Grace?
In the meeting with the cancer team, Leah says that doctors said they don’t know what is wrong with Grace. The doctor in Las Vegas diagnosed a specific kind of cancer – Wilms tumor.
Leah found in the court papers that there are other possible syndromes that it could be. Besides the mass on her kidney, Grace’s parents have recently learned that doctors are saying there are tiny spots on her lungs.
The family has consulted with Dr. Sami Espinoza, a pediatric oncologist in Mexico, where Christopher has relatives. She questions the wisdom of removing the kidney:
There is no way to diagnose cancer without the proper tests.
If there is no proof of cancer, he [the doctor] can’t diagnose cancer.
Dr. Espinoza called the Director of UCLA Health the night before Grace’s surgery to request Grace’s records and to request a transfer.
The requests were denied because Grace is in state custody.
All along, doctors have told the parents that they were going to remove Grace’s kidney, but thankfully, that didn’t happen. That was an answer to many prayers.
After the surgery on Thursday, Leah and Christopher learned that the surgeon did not remove the kidney or the mass, but she did a biopsy. They are awaiting results.
A port was installed into her heart through which they can administer chemotherapy.
The parents want the court to stop the hospital from moving forward with chemo or any other treatment until they have evidence that Grace actually has cancer. They want the right to consider alternative treatments.
The hospital’s website lists questions to ask the doctor if you are diagnosed with cancer. (Website) These questions include:
- What lab tests were completed, and what did they show?
- What are my treatment choices?
- Where can I get more information?
These are the questions that Leah Beabout and Christopher Vega are asking, but their child has been taken from them because they are asking these very questions, and not getting answers.
The new CPS caseworker told the parents that it is illegal for them to post anything about their child’s case on Facebook.
Courts Again Affirm Parental Rights
In a ruling issued this week by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California, the rights of families to be together was reaffirmed.
9th Circuit Court Upholds Parents’ Constitutional Rights: Rules Against Arizona Social Workers Removing Children without a Warrant
The ruling of the court was made by a 3-judge panel at the 9th Circuit. Judge Marsha S. Berzon was the leading concurring judge.
The court stated:
As this court has stated repeatedly, families have a “well-elaborated constitutional right to live together without governmental interference.”
Wallis v. Spencer, 202 F.3d 1126, 1136 (9th Cir. 2000); accord Kirkpatrick v. Cty. of Washoe, 843 F.3d 784, 789 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc); Burke v. Cty. of Alameda, 586 F.3d 725, 731 (9th Cir. 2009); Rogers v. Cty. of San Joaquin, 487 F.3d 1288, 1294 (9th Cir. 2007); Mabe v. San Bernardino Cty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1107 (9th Cir. 2001); Ram v. Rubin, 118 F.3d 1306, 1310 (9th Cir. 1997).
Judge Marsha S. Berzon in her concurring opinion addressed the issue of traumatizing children by removing them from their home:
I concur in the per curiam opinion in full. I write separately to emphasize why it is essential that the courts scrupulously guard a child’s constitutional right to remain at home absent a court order or true exigency.
Taking a child from his or her home, family, and community constitutes a separate trauma, in and of itself. Our cases so recognize, and so ordinarily permit that trauma to occur only after a court determination that the alternative is worse.
How You Can Help
A Facebook page has been set up for supporters to follow the family’s story – Saving Grace Alleluia Beabout.
Calls may be made on the family’s behalf to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. at (916) 445-2841, and he may be contacted here.
U.S. Congresswoman Julia Brownley has helped Christopher Vega in the past as his representative in Washington, D.C. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service to the United States Army in Afghanistan. Congresswoman Brownley helped him to get his medical records. After being injured in service to our country, it is our country’s turn to help him to get justice for his family. She may be reached at (202) 225 5811 or contacted here.
Assembly Member Monique Limon represents the family’s district in California. She may be reached at (916) 319-2037, or contacted here.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is their state senator. She may be reached at (916) 651-4019, or contacted here.
Doesn’t this family deserve to get a second opinion or learn about alternative treatments without losing custody of their child?