Maya Kowalski's mother, Beata, died by suicide after being accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy
Maya Kowalski, the now-17-year-old at the center of the Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya was allegedly “falsely imprisoned and battered,” as well as hugged and photographed against her will by hospital staff, her lawyer said in court last week, according to a broadcast of the proceedings on Court TV.
Last Friday marked the first day of evidence presentation in the lawsuit by the Kowalski family against the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the facility where Maya was admitted before being separated from her family after officials accused her mother, Beata Kowalski, of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP), a mental disorder in which a caregiver fakes or causes symptoms to make a child look sick.
In court, Maya was seen shedding tears as her family's lawyer Greg Anderson spoke about Beata's suicide, which the family alleges stemmed from the hospital's accusations and the subsequent separation of Maya fro her family for three months.
Maya was diagnosed in 2015 with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a rare neurological condition that can cause excruciating pain in response to the slightest touch. Anderson alleged that hospital nurses and social workers, in attempt to prove she didn't have the condition, “repeatedly battered” her by patting her leg and hugging her against her will.
Anderson also alleged in court that the hospital took away her religious belongings, such as her holy water and a rosary, and told her Beata was “crazy.” Anderson also alleged she was "systematically stripped and photographed against her will,” with no authorization from either of parents.
In an exclusive interview in June with PEOPLE, Maya said, "I was medically kidnapped."
Maya was separated from her family between October 2016 and January 2017. Beata died by suicide while Maya was still in the hospital. Five days later, she was released to the custody of her father.
The family is suing the hospital for $220 million: the Kowalski family demands $55 million be in alleged compensatory damages, and $165 million be paid in alleged punitive damages, according to WTSP.
In a statement to PEOPLE, the hospital said Monday that their staff is required to notify authorities "if they suspect abuse or neglect," adding that cases are investigated by child services and a judge, and not the hospital.
"We are determined to prevent any chilling effect on the obligation of mandatory reporters...," it said, "to report suspected child abuse in order to protect the most vulnerable among us."
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