Ex-children’s doctor charged with abusing adoptive daughter

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.

The case is getting attention from 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 experts who reviewed the case and who question the conclusions from Children’s physicians, whose initial investigation led to Cox’s charges in January.

NBC News first reported Cox’s story. 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 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.

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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, whom 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.”

A judge granted prosecutors’ request for a gag order regarding parts of the case that fall under medical confidentiality, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Cox has a hearing Feb. 12 on his motion to drop the case. 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.”

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This story was first published on Jan. 29. It was updated on Feb. 6 to correct that the doctor was charged in January, not eight months ago, and to delete an erroneous reference to defense experts being hired to review the case.

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