3 Nov 2010

Psychiatrists disagree on issue of mental health of ultra-Orthodox mother who starved son

Vos Iz Neias- The Voice of the Orthodox Jewish Community July 23, 2009

Jerusalem - Chief District Psychiatrist at Odds Over Allged 'Starving Mom' Case

Jerusalem - A closed-door Jerusalem court hearing on the remand of a woman suspected of abusing her child remained ended in stalemate Thursday, amid a disagreement between psychiatrists over whether she posed a danger to her children.

Haredi mother is healthy, stable, says psychiatric evaluator

An attorney representing the woman said Thursday that a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation has determined that she is not suffering from a psychiatric disorder.

The woman, who is suspected of nearly starving her three-year-old son to death, underwent the court-ordered private examination earlier this week.

"The psychiatric evaluation has determined...that the woman is not dangerous, and is completely healthy," attorney Avraham Weiss said ahead of a closed-door court remand hearing. "We are talking about a normal mother, and there is no reason for her to be in custody."

He added that the tests have found that the woman is not suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric disorder in which a person deliberately abuses someone else, typically a child, in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves.

But the chief district psychiatrist told the court that the evaluation was unclear on whether the woman posed a danger to her children, officials said.

The prosecution rejected a "bridging proposal" by court president Shlomit Dotan whereby the woman would remain under house arrest for 21 days, with two of her children, including the child allegedly abused, under the supervision and care of an authorized nurse, the officials said.

The court president's plan would also see the woman's three other children return home after they were questioned by authorities.

The court session was closed to the media.

The psychiatric evaluation was supposed to help determine if the woman is fit to stand trial, and whether she poses a threat to herself or her surroundings.

The police had asked the court to keep the woman under house arrest as they continue their investigation.

After the session ended without an accord, the court was to hand down a decision late Thursday night.

The woman, a resident of the city's Mea She'arim neighborhood who is a member of Toldos Aahron an extremist haredi sect, is suspected of severely abusing her child for two years, until a point where he weighed a mere seven kilograms (about 15 pounds).

The woman, who is five months pregnant, showed up for the examination despite pressure from some members of the extremist Eda Haredit organization not to do so until she is allowed to meet with her children, or until her sickened child is removed from Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital.

The woman's child remains hospitalized at Hadassah, whose doctors were the first to suspect that she was abusing her child, drawing the wrath of the Eda Haredit leaders.

Weiss said that Hadassah Hospital is willing to discharge the child from the hospital next week.

Meanwhile, authorities are still seeking to question the woman's other children in accordance with previous agreement reached with their father, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

Police investigators have said that they wanted to pursue suspicions that the woman may have abused two of her other children as well.

The woman's attorney said that the children would meet with authorities, but that they were "under trauma."

Haredi violence in the city has ebbed since the woman was released from police detention on Friday.

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