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Doctor removed from expert role in diagnosing child abuse amid questions about her credibility

This posting was revealed in partnership with KING 5 (KING-Tv set), an NBC affiliate in Seattle.

TACOMA, Wash. — For additional than three decades, authorities in the point out of Washington regarded Dr. Elizabeth Woods one of their go-to professionals in cases of suspected boy or girl abuse, generally relying on her medical viewpoints to establish when to get small children from parents or file criminal rates.

But this wintertime, Woods still left her position as the director of the youngster abuse intervention system at Mary Bridge Children’s Clinic in Tacoma, and previous thirty day period she was taken off from the modest roster of medical professionals who offer professional clinical reviews to the state’s child welfare company, healthcare facility and point out officers verified. Some location prosecutors have also been sending letters to protection lawyers disclosing that Woods’ credibility as an specialist witness has been called into issue.

These variations adhere to an NBC Information and KING 5 (KING-Television) investigation from 1 yr back that discovered that Woods, 39, experienced provided untrue information while testifying underneath oath about why she never ever been given crucial education to turn into licensed as a youngster abuse health-related pro. The investigation also examined four conditions in which kid welfare staff took kids from moms and dads primarily based on Woods’ reviews — such as some in which Woods misstated essential details, according to a review of data — in spite of contradictory views from other health care professionals who mentioned they observed no evidence of abuse.

Mary Bridge officers in the beginning defended Woods’ do the job in a statement to reporters final yr, arguing that she had “significant experience in the subject of youngster maltreatment.” But in an internal letter sent to healthcare facility personnel on the identical day that the NBC Information and KING 5 investigation was printed, on Feb. 14, 2020, the president of the hospital’s dad or mum organization announced that Mary Bridge leaders experienced asked an outdoors skilled to evaluate the kid abuse software less than Woods’ management, according to a copy of the letter acquired by NBC Information and KING 5 this thirty day period.

That expert evaluation recognized “suggestions to increase our composition and process” in the little one abuse plan, and led the hospital to initiate “changes to its doctor staffing and leadership model,” Mary Bridge spokeswoman Marce Edwards Olson explained in an email to reporters this month. In the midst of these ongoing modifications, Edwards Olson wrote, Woods “left Mary Bridge to go after other options.”

Woods did not answer to messages seeking remark, and officials from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital did not response issues about the situation of her departure.

Her exit was celebrated by several mothers and fathers — several of whom banded jointly in a Facebook group titled, “Families Wrongly Accused by ‘Dr.’ Elizabeth Woods” — who say mistaken reviews by Woods led the state’s Baby Protecting Solutions to needlessly different them from their children. And it raises concerns about the upcoming of any pending child abuse situations that hinge on her expert health-related conclusions, lawful professionals stated, possibly opening the door for mother and father or their attorneys to problem the state’s circumstance against them.

Among the medical professionals beneath contract to review boy or girl abuse scenarios for Kid Protecting Companies in Washington, the NBC News and KING 5 report showed, Woods was the only a person who each lacked decades of practical experience in examining cases of kid abuse and also never ever concluded teaching now essential to become accredited in little one abuse pediatrics, a professional medical subspecialty dedicated to differentiating accidental childhood accidents from all those that might have been inflicted.

Nancy Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for Washington state’s Section of Youngsters, Youth, and Households, said the conclusion to clear away Woods from the record was made by Seattle Children’s Hospital, which manages the network of abuse authorities underneath a agreement with the point out.

Kathryn Mueller, a Seattle Children’s spokeswoman, verified that the hospital pulled Woods from the checklist on Feb. 19, next her departure from Mary Bridge. But Mueller proposed that Woods could rejoin the software in the upcoming, producing in an e-mail that Woods “has quickly been removed from the listing although she establishes her work as an independent contractor.”

But even if Woods resumed her perform as a point out boy or girl abuse advisor, thoughts continue being about how her pro testimony would be received in courts across the Seattle location.

Two region prosecutors disclosed to reporters very last 7 days that they had additional Woods to interior lists of regulation enforcement officials and other prosecution authorities whose truthfulness has been challenged. Considering that June 25, the prosecutor’s office in Pierce County, where by Mary Bridge is dependent, has been sending letters to protection lawyers in all pending legal cases involving Woods, notifying them of “potential impeachment evidence” against her, along with a duplicate of the NBC Information and KING 5 investigation.

Woods was invited to present proof to contest her inclusion on the list but did not do so, a prosecutor’s workplace spokesman stated.

Prosecutors added Woods to a comparable listing in Thurston County past week, and officers in nearby King County, which includes Seattle, claimed they have begun a evaluation to figure out if they need to do the identical.

In Kitsap County, prosecutors said they began examining all of Woods’ qualified studies adhering to the information report last year and have given that brought in more professional medical gurus in some felony instances to validate the accuracy of Woods’ conclusions. Adhering to news of Woods’ current departure from Mary Bridge, the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Business office has reached out to the clinic for more data and is studying no matter if it, also, should really insert her to its list of perhaps discredited prosecution gurus.

“Law enforcement agencies are required to deliver us details on the trustworthiness of their staff members,” mentioned Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad Enright. “Mary Bridge is a non-public company and does not have the exact same obligation. So, we are trying to get that facts.”

Inquiries about the trustworthiness and precision of Woods’ skilled clinical studies began to area in just months of her getting the job as healthcare director of Mary Bridge’s little one abuse intervention team in 2018, in accordance to a assessment of circumstance paperwork and interviews with accused families. Between those people who lifted problems: At minimum a few other doctors, a excellent court docket choose and a baby welfare worker who described that Woods urged her to choose custody of a 9-year-old female without having to start with completely reviewing the child’s case file and medical data.

In just one 2018 scenario, showcased in the NBC News and KING 5 investigation, Baby Protecting Services took two small children from their mom, Megan Carter, just after Woods claimed that Carter had been abusing her daughter with avoidable medical therapies. The small children had been returned 14 months later on, when Choose Susan Amini ruled that most of Woods’ testimony in the circumstance was “without supporting factual basis.”

Carter reported her two small children, now 7 and 11, are nonetheless obtaining therapy subsequent their yearlong separation.

Megan Carter with her daughter, Ellie, at their home in Covington, Clean.Jovelle Tamayo / for NBC Information

“It just feels like we can breathe a very little bit more now, and I really feel like I fret a minor bit fewer,” Carter said, reacting to information of Woods’ departure. “The fret that she has caused and the trauma that she has prompted in our relatives is often heading to be there. It can be by no means likely to completely go away.”

With Woods no for a longer time performing on behalf of the point out, it’s not crystal clear what will transpire to the pending child welfare situations that she consulted on. A spokeswoman for the Washington Point out Legal professional General’s Business office, which serves as authorized counsel for the state’s boy or girl welfare company in countless numbers of civil dependency instances, mentioned it is not attainable to promptly tabulate how numerous pending CPS cases contain Woods.

“Our 5 division chiefs who oversee baby abuse and neglect conditions are conscious of the fears that have been publicized,” Brionna Aho, the spokeswoman, stated. “They have and will observe up on any case of worry.”

In the meantime, Woods is nevertheless outlined as a opportunity expert witness in at least 17 pending felony situations in the Seattle location and provided professional reviews or testified in at the very least 23 many others, according to records supplied by location prosecutors.

Prosecutors with ongoing conditions involving Woods reported it is not right away crystal clear if her departure from Mary Bridge will have an affect on those people scenarios, with some emphasizing that they would request more clinical specialists to corroborate her findings when essential.

In one particular pending Kitsap County scenario, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Baylen Armendariz, now 21, was billed in 2019 with abusing her toddler twins based on Woods’ report to authorities that the only plausible explanation for their fractured bones was “a motor car collision” or abuse. 3 outside healthcare experts reviewed the twins’ health-related documents on Armendariz’s behalf and concluded that the fractures were being possible the outcome of a mineral deficiency that can lead to weak bones susceptible to breaks.

Baylen Armendariz hopes her situation will be reviewed in gentle of Woods’ departure. Taylor Mirfendereski / KING 5

Armendariz pleaded not responsible to the abuse fees and approved a offer this year with prosecutors that enables her to stop by her now 2-yr-previous twins a few situations a 7 days under the supervision of their grandmother. If she follows the settlement, all costs versus her will be dropped and she’ll get back custody of the twins when the offer expires in February 2026.

Even though she was relieved to be equipped to see her kids yet again, she’s heartbroken that she won’t be ready to choose them dwelling for a further five decades.

Right after discovering about Woods’ departure from Mary Bridge, she reported she hopes authorities will take yet another glance at the evidence.

“I would like the circumstance reviewed by the court docket,” she reported. “Take into thought the likelihood that there are medical issues. Not every little thing is baby abuse.”

Taylor Mirfendereski claimed from Tacoma, Washington, and Mike Hixenbaugh claimed from Houston.