Litzman: Probe 'starving mom' case

The Jerusalem Post/July 29, 2009

Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman instructed the Health Ministry ombudsman for dealing with complaints about medical professionals, Prof. Chaim Hershko, to conduct a broad investigation into the affair of the haredi mother suspected of starving her child, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday. The probe is to examine alleged shortcomings in the medical system's conduct in the case, including of medical officials and those around the mother's psychiatric assessments.

Hershko, a 71-year-old world-renowned expert in iron metabolism in health and disease, is also the former head of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center.

Meanwhile, the mother, whose internment sparked riots throughout haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem, skipped an interrogation session scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The mother had been released to house arrest nearly two weeks ago on condition that she would allow a court-appointed psychiatrist to evaluate her, and that she would appear in court and at police headquarters when requested.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Dr. Yaakov Weill, the psychiatrist who was appointed by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to examine the mother, retracted his initial evaluation, and told the court that "it is not certain that the mother can function as a parent."

In a letter, which reached the mother's attorneys on Sunday and supplemented his initial evaluation, Weill wrote: "I have reached the conclusion that I want to retract the sentence that reads, 'To my professional evaluation the examinee is capable of continuing to carry out her maternal duties, with no danger.'"

Following his official evaluation, the Magistrate's Court said that the mother could be reunited with her four other children, under supervision, until a remand hearing on August 5. However, she is barred from contact with the three-year-old she allegedly abused. The court said he would be discharged on Sunday from Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, and moved to another hospital or to the care of a relative.

The woman is a resident of the Mea She'arim neighborhood and a member of the Toldot Aharon hassidic sect. She is being accused of purposely withholding food from her child, thus causing him to be hospitalized at Hadassah seven times over the last two years. The most recent case saw the child arrive at the hospital dangerously underweight, at seven kilograms. He now weighs more than 10 kilograms.

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