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July 30, 2012

On the Case:

Hospital, Social Worker Seek to Dismiss Lawsuit

Michael P. Farris is founder and chairman of HSLDA. He and his wife homeschool their 10 children. Read more >>

In June 2010, Scott and Jodi Ferris temporarily lost custody of their newborn daughter because they insisted on directing their daughter’s medical care. The Ferrises had originally planned for a homebirth, but due to complications, Jodi gave birth to her daughter in an ambulance outside of Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She and her daughter were then admitted to the hospital for post-partum care.

Despite the demonstrated health of the baby, the hospital insisted on an unusually rigorous schedule of medical treatment, which included keeping the newborn for up to 72 hours. Furthermore, the staff routinely ignored the Ferrises’ requests to know what medications were being administered to their daughter.

As conscientious parents, the Ferrises wanted to know what treatments their daughter was receiving. But when the Ferrises continued to question whether certain treatments were actually necessary for their daughter, the hospital called social services.

The social services investigator refused to tell Jodi the allegations of the investigation but insisted that she sign a safety plan. When Jodi asked to wait until her husband returned from checking on the rest of their children before signing, the social worker called the police. Without a court order, the Ferrises’ daughter was taken into emergency custody, and the police and hospital security escorted the Ferrises out of the hospital. The next day a judge returned the newborn to her parents.

Home School Legal Defense Association filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Ferrises in March 2012. (Michael Farris’ announcement of the case can be found online.) HSLDA’s litigation team argued that the actions of Hershey Medical Center, the social services investigator, and the police officers violated the 14th and Fourth Amendment rights of parents who were simply monitoring the medical care that their daughter received.

Since we filed the case the social worker and hospital have responded by submitting a motion to have the court dismiss the case. HSLDA is in the process of responding to these motions, ensuring that the Ferris family receives the justice they deserve.