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Pre-2008 Posts

Tina Marie Carlsen Freed

Tina Marie Carlsen in Court YesterdayCarlsen and her son

Tina Marie Carlsen, the woman who was arrested and jailed on $500,000 bond for trying to protect her 9-month-old from a surgical procedure she feared might kill him has been released.  Although a judge has ruled that she can’t have contact with her son, Riley, without the permission of state child protection authorities, her attorney, Jim Lobsenz, is negotiating with the state in hopes of reuniting Carlsen with her son and is hoping that eventually the charges against her will be reduced to “custodial interference” or dismissed altogether.

As I’ve read the ongoing articles and reports, I have been aghast at the treatment this woman has received.  As it turns out, the child was never in imminent danger; a doctor wanted him to have a procedure which would allow him to undergo kidney dialysis for genetic kidney problems IF he should ever need to.  This same doctor — a woman nephrologist — not once, not twice, but three times called child protective services to report that the Carlsens were not obeying her orders.  The first two child welfare workers rejected the doctor’s complaints as unfounded, and the second one, according to Carlsen’s mother, high-fived her and told her she was doing a great job.   Tina Carlsen has two relatives with the same condition her son has.  One of them never was treated for it and is an adult and is just fine; the other had a kidney transplant and regrets it.  She had a very sound basis for rejecting this procedure.  She had sought and was administering naturopathic and other alternative care and Riley was never ill.

Additionally, she is breastfeeding.  Her child was ripped from her arms, supposedly to protect his health, meaning he was immediately switched to effing formula.  At nine months and given the kind of mothering it sounds as though Carlsen provided, I would guess she breastfed him responsively and that much of his nutrition came from her breastmilk.  To deprive him of this breastmilk, if his health was fragile to begin with, could itself have imperilled his health.  Not only was he deprived of his mother’s milk and presumably placed on formula and other food, it took five full days for authorities to bring Carlsen’s milk — which she expressed while she was in jail — to the hospital for her child.

Here is a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article about Carlsen’s release, and here is an article about the outcry against the way Carlsen was treated.  A UW law school professor is quoted saying what I’ve been thinking but have neglected to include in my earlier post, that in Washington parents are not necessarily legally obligated to follow doctors’ orders for their children.  Immunizations, for example, are voluntary.  Parents may assert personal or philosophical exemptions to vaccinizing their children and the state cannot force them to do so, even though the doctors may believe this is parental negligence.

Today’s Seattle Times published an editorial in support of Tina Marie Carlsen urging that the kidnapping charges against her be dropped.  I sent the following letter to the editor of the Times several days ago:

I knew something was amiss when that Amber Alert was issued last week for a child who was “gravely ill,” with no other information provided, and who had supposedly been “kidnapped” by his mother.  My hunches were confirmed when Tina Marie Carlsen was held on a $500,000 bond for second-degree kidnapping– for what?  For daring to disagree with child protection authorities and doctors.  For trying to protect her child.  News reports confirm that this is a child who is “not in imminent danger” and that, according to her husband and relatives, Tina Marie Carlsen is a good mother who was just trying to protect her child from what she believed to be an unnecessary and potentially lethal surgical procedure.

The only thing I can come up with is that child protection officials figured this might be a handy way to divert public attention away from their horrifyingly abysmal record of actually protecting children, exemplified by the recent arrest of the guy on the East Side who molested and raped his foster and adoptive daughters for years and years despite 29 reports of suspected abuse to those same officials, who couldn’t seem to come up with any reason to intervene until young lives were basically destroyed.

I think the arrest of Tina Marie Carlsen is preposterous, the $500,000 bond is outrageous, and issuing an Amber Alert was an abuse of the Amber Alert process and an insult to all parents whose children have actually been abducted.  This woman was no kidnapper and her child was not an abused child.  This was just a mother, attempting to protect her child from what appears to me to be traditional medical practitioners with tunnel vision, bureaucrats run amok, and everybody but the mother interested not in the child, but in protecting their own backsides.  I can only hope the appropriate heads will ultimately roll over this.  It is a fiasco.

My letter has not been published so far, but I’m betting the local papers received many such letters. 

A website, Help Baby Riley,  has been set up by supporters of the Carlsens for anyone who would like to donate funds to help with legal fees and other expenses associated with Carlsen’s arrest.    I hope lots of people donate.  And I am so disheartened knowing it was a woman doctor who abused her authority and power to the point that not only was a baby ripped from the arms and care of loving parents and family and deprived of his mother’s milk, a woman who was guilty of nothing but attempting to protect her son was criminalized and jailed.  The doctor responsible for this was an absolute Tool of the Patriarchy, all caps, and I do not mind saying so, as were all responsible for the damage to this family.




10 thoughts on “Tina Marie Carlsen Freed

  1. Well, Heart, it has been my experience that women who are trained by the patriarchal medical establishment are more rigid, authoritarian, and ready to condemn other women than the men. Males have this paternalistic attitude and women have this need to be an authority and obeyed. They have internalized the medical distaste for women, whereas the male doctors just assume we are idiots.

    Posted by rhondda | June 29, 2006, 10:54 pm
  2. Rhondda, it’s seemed that way to me, too, but I never want to believe it. 😦 As it turns out, when the judge released her he ordered her not only not to have contact with her son but not to have contact with any other minor children! It’s preposterous. She is being treated like a predator. But, I learned this from a Seattle Times columnist– I’m glad the story is getting lots of attention.


    Posted by Heart | June 29, 2006, 11:26 pm
  3. Heart, she disobeyed the patriarchy as signified by the doctor. The judge has made a leap of faith in the patriarchy. If you disobey one authority, you must be a criminal and therefore must be punished. It actually is a very simple logical conclusion if you believe in that sort of thing. If you disobey in one thing, you will disobey in other things and must be stopped. So labeling her a threat to children is a way to get her to comply and any other ‘stupid’ mother who thinks she knows more than the ‘professionals’. They are all connected. Why do you think judges accept psychological assessments over the word of a citizen? This idea that anyone who dissents is criminal is getting to be a norm. Very scary.

    Posted by rhondda | June 29, 2006, 11:56 pm
  4. So, so true. You are so right, and it is so scary.


    Posted by womensspace | June 30, 2006, 12:07 am
  5. Judge refuses to halt surgery for ailing infant
    By Natalie Singer

    Seattle Times staff reporter

    A Pierce County judge this morning refused a last-minute request by Tina Marie Carlsen, the mother arrested for kidnapping her 9-month-old son from a hospital last week, to block surgery scheduled for this morning.

    Juvenile Court Judge John McCarthy refused to give Carlsen more time to explore alternative treatments for her son, Riley Rogers, who suffers from a kidney ailment. The surgery was to be done at 11 a.m. at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center, but his parents were not allowed to see him beforehand.

    The judge said Carlsen could have a two-hour visit with her son after the surgery. The judge also said Carlsen could spend four hours with Riley per week in supervised visits, but added that the state could allow longer visits, suporters said.

    Todd Rogers said after the hearing that he was frustrated that he and others could not visit his son before the operation. “I’m upset that it had to come down to this,” said Rogers. “From the very beginning, all I wanted for everybody to be on the same page.”

    …Judge Ronald Kessler released Carlsen on personal recognizance after she agreed to stipulations that include not seeing her son unless allowed by Child Protective Services and living with her mother, Kathy Carlsen.

    Prosecutors had originally asked for a $500,000 bail for the 34-year-old Sumner woman, but on Wednesday said they would not oppose her release.

    Carlsen was charged with kidnapping after she put Riley in a diaper bag and smuggled him out of Children’s. A statewide Amber Alert was issued and Carlsen was arrested on Saturday.

    State Child Protective Services had taken custody of the baby on June 9 after Carlsen refused to agree with doctors’ advice that Riley, who has a kidney condition, needed immediate surgery that would make him ready to start dialysis.

    On Thursday, Child Protective Services decided to allow Carlsen supervised visits with the baby.

    Kathy Spears, state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) spokeswoman, declined to say how much supervision.

    Michael Shipley, Carlsen’s Tacoma lawyer in the battle to regain custody of Riley, filed a motion in Pierce County Superior Court early today asking for an emergency stay to the surgery.

    Debra O’Conner, of Citizens, said supporters were also appealing to Gov. Christine Gregoire through an e-mail campaign waged from the group’s support Web site, Supporters have said Carlsen is a devoted and natural-minded mother who dotes on Riley, feeding him organic food and using cloth diapers. She was concerned about the side effects of dialysis and surgery, and wanted to explore other treatment options, her friends and family say.

    Riley’s father, Todd Rogers, who was ordered to have no more than four hours of supervised visits with the baby each week, has defended Carlsen.

    After her arrest, Carlsen, who breast-feeds, sought the support of women’s advocates and friends and family in order to continue providing milk for Riley.

    Megan Tormey, a friend of Carlsen’s, said Thursday she was angry that it took four days to get a working breast pump into the jail.

    “If the doctors were so concerned about Riley’s health, why weren’t they demanding his milk?” she asked.

    Kathy Carlsen said she was relieved that her daughter was being released but that worry over Riley’s welfare continues.

    “It’s going to be hard for the whole family,” she said. “The next step, hopefully, is to get Riley back.”

    Seattle Times staff reporters Cara Solomon and Carol M. Ostrom contributed to this story.

    Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or

    Posted by womensspace | June 30, 2006, 7:59 pm
  6. Those of us who have lost children to the courts or tried to prevent other womyn from losing children to the courts really can’t be but so surprised at what happened to Ms. Carlsen; what I find surprising is her strength through all of this, the support she is getting, and the fact that it is not being swept under the rug and dismissed as something we should just pretend never happened. Ms. Carlsen’s story is being heard and it fills me with hope that maybe, just maybe things can change someday.

    ….almost enough hope for me to want to look at a box full of mementos in the back of my closet that contains a little music box that a baby girl used to love almost 19 years ago; I will always think that “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is the saddest song in the world…..

    Posted by anonymon | July 1, 2006, 2:25 am
  7. This is an eggregious example of medicine at gunpoint. I heard Tina Marie Carlsen’s (TMC) hour-long interview with Dave Ross of 710 KIRO radio on June 30 at 10:00 AM. Previously the father of Riley stated on KIRO that “one doctor caused all of this”. I believe I heard TMC name a “Dr Becker” at Children’s Hospital in Seattle as the perpetrator, and my search of the hospital website shows a Dr Nicole Becker. It seems so outrageous that one doctor can wield so much power if the child is not in immediate danger. This must send shivers down the spine of any thoughtful parent.

    I wonder if the hospital has a reason for remaining silent regarding the mechanisms in place to protect parent rights. They don’t need to mention this specific case at all, just a clear reiteration of what they do when a parent disagrees with a doctor’s recommendation.

    Someone told me this is the procedure:
    ” meeting of the ethics committee of the hospital. At those meetings, a group of people examine the issues. The group generally includes several physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy, probably some legal consultant, and the parents. ”

    According to TMC, the hospital rushed the case, and the next thing she knew she’d LOST CUSTODY of her child! Also, CPS was interviewed on television and a representative stated that that child would be put in Foster Care (!!) after surgery.

    I want some assurance that if my son goes to the doctor with a condition, and the doc says we need to do an immediate procedure, I have some process and consent. If I disagree and walk out, is that cause for amber alert, lost custody, foster care for my kid and jail with $500k bond? That’s an outrageous example, right? OK so tell me the policy clearly.

    And how does a doctor get CPS to take full custody of a child based only on a diagnosis of severity with lifelong implication. And isn’t it frightening that CPS can put a kid in foster care by their directorate based on a medical diagnosis, when the child shows no signs of immediate threat and the parent has demonstrated a sincere care and love for the child.

    Something mentioned on KIRO was “Standard of care”. TLC commented on it, she’s no bimbo, this is a very learned person. Many commentators participated in the interview, including others who have said they are very fearful the same thing could happen to them. One expert called by the news to comment said that due to standard of care principle, if one doctor makes a recommendation that is outside of the state approved procedure, regardless of individual circumstance, they lose their license. It sounds fine and dandy but there must be parental consultation and a process to review alternatives, and this standard of care is becoming more rigid. Same commentator gave several examples of how our state standard of care is in direct conflict with procedures endorsed by World Health Organization.

    Near the end of the interview, after TMC described how a police officer screamed profanities and pointed a gun at her head while arresting her, Dave Ross made a clever reference to the fact that since TMC is not a fundamentalist religious person, or a “Branch Davidian” type, this case has a great deal of implication for the local medical establishment. What do they hang their collective hats on? They remain stunningly silent, and the media seems to have dropped the story entirely.

    Posted by Magnum | July 1, 2006, 6:20 pm
  8. Magnum, thanks so much for posting all of that– I wondered how that television program went. I feel devastated for this family– for the baby who has now been cut open by doctors against the gut and best judgment of the people who love him most in the world, for the dad, grandparents, relatives, especially for Tina Marie, who by all counts is a kickass mom, doing everything she knows how to do, breastfeeding, cotton diapers, organic everything, and to think this woman has LOST HER CHILD. Where is the outrage? And that cop– is there a decent cop anywhere on the face of the earth? Anywhere? I never liked cops and never trusted them but even I am incredulous over their ongoing, continuous brutality. By all means, put a gun to Tina Marie Carlsen’s head. She was a real threat to society.

    Goddamn it.


    Posted by womensspace | July 2, 2006, 1:18 am
  9. Hello,
    This is my first time here. I am a male medical student at UCSD. When this terrible incident happened I was in Seattle. I was very disturbed, to say the least. I knew that allopathic medicine has ruled for several decades in the U.S. backed by the Rocketfeller dynasty seeing much profit in precribing drugs which never cure anything but certainly make people permanently dependent on them with much side-effects which calls for more drugs and invasive procedure. This is why Ostheopath and other alternative treatments have been successfully suppressed and ridiculed by so called pseudo-scientists with biased interests. I knew all that. But I did not know that this profit-driven medical industry has such a close tie with the law makers to this sickening degree.

    Next week, I will be presenting this case to a small discussion group. It will be interesting to see what other students have to say about this. What’s alarming is that not many students are aware of this case because the media deliberately silenced the case.

    I am very sickened by this truly frightening state of affair here in the US. Why aren’t the citizens rising up against the false authority that is taking our freedom away? V for Vendetta. All concerned women and men of Seattle could have made a huge demonstration against that ego-driven physician and the idiodic the judge, so that they can feel to their skin that they are to serve the people and not rule them.

    Good and bad news to you. Looking at my class, I can tell you that there are still a lot of children of physicians continuing the tradition. But there are some of us who come from fresh backgrounds with diverse views that do not agree with the existing failing system. Now, many of us get silenced or simply resign and comply by the time we get to residency because otherwise we can’t pass the doors.

    So ultimately it’s up to us as CITIZENS of this country to defend our basic human right of FREEDOM to choose from various medical philosophies and treatments. We must make our voices heard loud and clear. Let’s not forget that the law is made to serve the people, not the other way around. Do not let your physicians dictate what you should do. They don’t have that power. They shouldn’t. If the existing law says they do, force the law-makers to change it. Physicians provide SERVICE to you and they can only suggest what they think is the best option. YOu make the final decision, not the physician. You own your health and quality of life and life style, not them. Remember, you are paying them. You are hiring them to provide service to you. Too often people forget this simple reality when they go see a doctor. And often physicians are delightfully unaware of this reality. If so, just remind them. The time to change this false authority fantacy is long overdue here in the US in so many different areas.

    One thing to add is, so far, this med school at UCSD seems to be aware of this need for a change and is trying hard to let the students know and be prepared for the new role of physicians as service providers.

    Posted by Thomas | September 22, 2006, 6:22 am
  10. Wasn’t part of her taking her child to explore alternative therapies instead of the operation to prepare her child for dialysis if it needed to be done?

    Alternative therapies may be good alongside conventional treatment but not as a treatment.

    Too many people read too much into alternative treatments but fail to see that harm can be done when conventional treatment is taken away.

    While conventional treatment is not an exact cure when it comes to ailments it certainly is a life saver, however alternative therapy is nothing more than a ‘feel good’ thing that only masks the real problem. You only have to read the story of Sylvia Millecam to see how dangerous alternative therapies can be.

    Posted by Julia | October 27, 2006, 7:30 am

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