Maya Kowalski accuses hospital of sex abuse days after lawsuit win

The case was the subject of Netflix’s ‘Take Care of Maya’ documentary

Martha McHardy
Monday 13 November 2023 12:59 GMT
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Maya Kowalski cries as jury returns verdict against Florida hospital
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The 17-year-old girl at the centre of the Netflix documentaryTake Care of Maya has accused the hospital that wrongfully kept her from her family of sex abuse just days after she won millions of dollars of damages in a lawsuit.

Maya Kowalski and her family sued the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the Department of Children and Families for more than $200m when her mother took her own life after doctors at the hospital accused her of Munchausen-by-proxy.

The hospital was found liable on all counts on Thursday, including those of false imprisonment, battery and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on both Maya and her mother, Beata Kowalski.

But the legal case has now taken a new turn after the 17-year-old filed a criminal complaint with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office against the hospital on Friday, her attorney told the Daily Mail.

The complaint cites assault and battery at the hospital between 8 and 13 October in 2016.

Attorney Greg Anderson said that while she was in “imprisonment” at the hospital, a man who appeared to be a doctor came into her room and pulled down her pajamas and underwear and stared at and touched her private parts.

“Maya suppressed this until about four weeks ago, [but] she did put in some notes to both the psychiatrist there at the time Dr. Katzenstein and later to Dr. Henschke, the two female psychiatrists that she saw along the way,” Mr Anderson said.

“These allegations originally arose during trial and were not admitted into the case. As soon as the hospital became aware of the allegations, and in accordance with their policies, they immediately initiated an internal investigation and contacted law enforcement last month. Federal privacy laws restrict Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital from sharing more, but the hospital takes allegations of this nature very seriously and always puts the safety of their patients above all else,” attorneys for the hospital said in a statement.

It comes after the Kowalski family were awarded damages of over $250m by the court, which found that the hospital wrongfully separated Maya from her mother — who later took her own life.

Teen at centre of ‘Take Care of Maya’ documentary has accused the hospital of of sex abuse

During the two-month-long civil trial, the court heard how the family’s nightmare began after Maya, then nine years old, was brought to an emergency room at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in October 2016 to seek help for complex regional pain syndrome, a rare and debilitating disease.

Maya had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy for a year to treat the symptoms, her family said.

Despite this, the teenager testified that hospital personnel dismissed her condition as largely imaginary.

She said when her mother Beata, a nurse, arrived at the hospital and insisted her daughter be given more ketamine, doctors became suspicious and contacted a child abuse hotline.

A state judge and Florida’s Department of Children and Families later sided with doctors who suspected Beata was suffering from Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, a psychological disorder where parents fabricate their child’s illness.

Maya was ordered to be held in the hospital by the judge and was prevented from seeing her mother. After 87 days, Beata took her own life at the age of 43.

During the trial, the Kowalskis’ lawyer Mr Anderson argued that Maya was “falsely imprisoned and battered, she was denied communication with her family,” according to Fox13.

The jury also found that Maya was wrongfully placed under video surveillance for 48 consecutive hours, as well as being made to strip down to shorts and a training bra for a photograph.

Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital repeatedly denied the allegations and insisted that they meant no harm to Ms Kowalski.

Beata Kowalski was just 43 when she took her own life in January 2017 after being separated from her daughter for months by the courts following false accusations of Munchausen by proxy

The hospital said they intended to pursue an appeal “based on clear and prejudicial errors throughout the trial and deliberate conduct by plaintiff’s counsel that misled the jury.”

“The evidence clearly showed that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital followed Florida’s mandatory reporting law in reporting suspected child abuse and, when those suspicions were confirmed by the district court, fully complied with Department of Children and Families (DCF) and court orders,” defence counsel Howard Hunter said in a statement.

“We are determined to defend the vitally important obligation of mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse and protect the smallest and most vulnerable among us.

“The facts and the law remain on our side, and we will continue to defend the lifesaving and compassionate care provided to Maya Kowalski by the physicians, nurses and staff of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the responsibility of all mandatory reporters in Florida to speak up if they suspect child abuse.”

Maya clutched Beata’s rosary beads and cried uncontrollably as the jury’s decision was announced in court last week.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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