Brittle bone parents suspected of abuse

Daily Mail 20th December 2004

 Babies suffering from brittle bone disease risk being taken into care amid child abuse fears, a radio documentary claims.

One child was taken from his parents for four months before being diagnosed with the illness and returned, according to BBC Radio 4's "Fractured" programme.

Parents face the nightmare scenario because the condition can often be difficult to spot but the injuries of broken bones and fractures resemble those of violent attacks.

Between 40 and 60 babies are born with the illness in Britain each year and up to a third do not have a family history of bone disease, a specialist said.

'Significant risk'

Professor Nick Bishop, of Sheffield Children's Hospital, told the programme those without a family history were at a "significant risk" of being misdiagnosed.

Annette Deane had her son taken into care eight years ago after taking him to hospital because he was not feeding well.

Tests showed he had several broken bones that were healing and his parents were suspected of abuse, BBC News Online said.

After four months in care, the youngster was found to have a broken ankle and two other fractures, was diagnosed with brittle bone disease and returned to his mother.

Mrs Deane told the radio programme: "He was so precious to me, and the thought that I might lose him - all I could do was cry. Sit and cry." Brittle bone disease is a rare and incurable condition caused by a mutation in collagen proteins in the bones.

It can be inherited but can also occur spontaneously and leads to bones fracturing easily.

It can be fatal or severely disabling but milder forms can be hard to spot.

Medical diagnosis

Prof Bishop said he has seen two cases where abuse was suspected before the child was found to have brittle bones and returned to his family.

Dave Endicott, a social worker with 30 years experience in child protection, told the BBC: "What people do is they get a medical diagnosis that says it's child abuse and then they go looking for evidence to support that theory or diagnosis."

Annie Hudson, a member of the childrens' committee of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said social workers were aware of the possibility of rare diseases - and were encouraged to keep an open mind during child protection investigations.