Where is Dr Sally Smith from Take Care of Maya now?
One of the doctors at the centre of the upsetting Netflix documentary remains a hot topic for viewers.
As viewers see at the end of the film, it also highlights the issues that have impacted many families across the US when they have been forced to battle authorities for custody of their children.
When 10-year-old Maya Kowalski was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2016, nothing could have prepared her or her family for what they were about to go through.
As the synopsis for the film outlines: "As the medical team tried to understand her rare illness, they began to question the basic truths that bound the Kowalskis together. Suddenly, Maya was in state custody – despite two parents who were desperate to bring their daughter home.
"The story of the Kowalski family – as told in their own words – will change the way you look at children’s healthcare forever."
The documentary, which has prompted much debate among viewers, looks at the role of Dr Sally Smith. Smith was a medical director and worked in the child protection team in Pinellas County, Florida.
As outlined in the film by Maya's father, Jack, Smith was brought in to question Maya and make major decisions about her ongoing treatment. As he explains, when Smith left the room and the nurse returned, he was told to leave and that Maya was being placed in state custody.
So, where is Dr Sally Smith now? Read on for everything you need to know.
Where is Dr Sally Smith from Take Care of Maya now?
When Maya suffered with yet another bout of excruciating stomach pain, her parents took her to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2016. Maya's mother Beata had told physicians about her daughter's previous usage of Ketamine to treat her complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
As seen in the documentary, when Jack went to visit his daughter, he met Dr Sally Smith for the first time. He claimed that he had no formal introduction to the doctor and once she left the room, the attending nurse who had previously been with Jack told him to leave. Maya was now in state custody.
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Of course, the documentary grows more harrowing as we learn that Maya's mother, Beata, died by suicide in 2017 after Smith’s investigation suggested that Beata had Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The rare disorder is when a parent fakes a child’s illness for sympathy or gain.
Beata's last note to her family read: “I no longer can take the pain being away from Maya and being treated like a criminal. I cannot watch my daughter suffer in pain and keep getting worse.”
Smith's report filed in October 2016 suggested that Beata was abusing Maya by exaggerating and psychologically inducing her symptoms. Maya remained in state custody and was confined to the hospital unable to see her parents.
Dr Anthony Kirkpatrick, who was the first doctor to diagnose Maya with CRPS, did confirm her diagnosis to Smith in her initial investigation. He also formally warned that a child abuse case would cause "needless and permanent harm to the child and family", as reported by The Cut and as he states in the film.
The documentary shows and interviews other families who had been accused of abusing their child when they had brought them into hospital.
As a result, many families including the Kowalskis are campaigning for paediatricians to be subject to more checks, as reported by The Daytona Beach Journal.
Speaking to The Cut last year, Smith defended her role in the case, saying: "I am not a horrible person whose goal in life is to disrupt families. I have spent my adult life attempting to serve children in my community to ameliorate conditions of abuse and neglect.
"I wish our society did more to help struggling families to provide safe, nurturing homes to their children. I'm not a big proponent of punitive approaches for such families contrary to media portrayals about me."
Responding to the 12 documented cases in which Smith identified abuse only for the children to be returned to their parents, charges dropped, or DCF to reverse its separation order, Smith explained that she had evaluated 3,000 cases in her career.
"So 12 cases is a pretty small percentage," she noted. "My job is not to make mistakes. To my knowledge, I don't have any cases where I've made an incorrect conclusion.
"We have children that come to see us that have less serious injuries, where a recommendation is made for a child to be removed for their safety. And the next day, the judge declines that request. Just because they determine they're not going to proceed with criminal charges doesn't mean that there wasn't child abuse or that I quote-unquote made a mistake."
So, what happened to Dr Smith? Well, in the ending scenes of Take Care of Maya, it states that in December 2021 Smith and her employer, Suncoast Advocacy Services, settled their portion of the lawsuit with the Kowalskis.
Smith voluntarily retired from her post last year. She declined to be filmed for the documentary but Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the Bayfront Medical Center still have her listed as an independent practitioner.
Although they have reached a settlement with Smith and her employer, the Kowalskis continue to pursue a legal battle against Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in September 2023.
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