Trial Begins in Lawsuit vs. Florida Hospital in Case Made Famous by Netflix ‘Maya’ Doc

September 15, 2023

The trial in a liability lawsuit against a Florida hospital, a story featured in a Netflix documentary, began this week, bringing new attention to health care providers’ responsibilities in complex cases involving minors.

The long-delayed trial in Venice, Florida, will examine the question of whether a hospital, which reported suspected medical abuse by the family of a 10-year-girl, can be held liable for the mother’s suicide in 2016. Multiple news outlets have followed the case since it was made famous by the 2023 Netflix show, “Take Care of Maya,” that began streaming in June.

The documentary examines the case of Maya Kowalski, who was brought to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in 2016, with reports of severe abdominal pain. She was also underweight and in a wheelchair. Maya’s mom, a registered nurse named Beata Kowalski, asked doctors to administer ketamine to the girl, saying that she believed she was suffering from complex regional pain syndrome, according to news reports.

Ketamine has seen limited success in treating CRPS in adults, and is covered by workers’ compensation insurance and other insurance plans in some cases in a number of states.

Staff at the hospital raised concerns, though, and reported their concerns to child protection authorities. A county official suspected Maya’s mom suffered from Munchausen by Proxy, a mental condition in which the caregiver makes up symptoms or creates them, news site and others have reported. After reviewing the case, a judge ordered that the girl be sheltered, at least temporarily, at the hospital. She was interviewed and videotaped, the Tampa Bay Times and others have reported.

After 87 days without physical contact with her daughter, Beata committed suicide.

The family filed suit in 2018, seeking millions of dollars in damages. A company that Florida’s child protective services had contracted with settled with the family for $2.5 million, The Times and The Cut news site have reported.

An All Children’s Hospital attorney has said that the hospital stands by its concerns about Maya, and that hospital employees are required by law to report suspected abuse.

Jury selection continued Friday. The trial is expected to take about eight weeks.

Photo: All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in 2014. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

This article has been updated to show that a judge reviewed the case before Maya was sheltered at the hospital, and that ketamine has not been widely endorsed for treating children.

Topics Lawsuits Florida

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