Judge: Doctors can operate on teen against parents' wishes

Posted: February 11, 2011

Ten days after a 16-year-old Chichester High School wrestler was seriously injured during practice, a Delaware County judge ruled that doctors at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital can operate on the boy to stabilize his spine, despite his parents' objections.

The case pits Mazeratti Mitchell and his parents' right to treat their son the way they feel is best against doctors' judgment that the teenager might suffer a lifelong and irreversible injury unless screws and plates are inserted to reinforce his neck.

Parents Jack and Vernell Mitchell of Boothwyn fought the operation, saying they believed the "naturopathic medicine" that his mother practices, which includes herbs and physical therapy, was the proper remedy.

After the parents sought to take their son home to treat him according to their wishes, he was placed in the temporary custody of Delaware County child-welfare officials. He remains at Jefferson.

After an hour-long closed-door hearing Thursday at the Media courthouse, during which doctors from Jefferson were consulted by phone, Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Alice Brennan ruled that the doctors could go ahead with the procedure.

It was unclear Thursday night whether the surgery had taken place; Delaware County and Jefferson officials have said that for privacy reasons, they cannot disclose that information.

Delaware County Solicitor John McBlain would say after the hearing only that Jefferson "can proceed with the medical treatment. When and what would be up to the doctors."

The Mitchells declined to comment after the hearing. Their attorney, Michael Nix, said that they planned to appeal to Superior Court and to seek a stay of Brennan's order while the matter was being reconsidered.

With the Mitchells at his side, he said that "they believe that the right of the child and the right of the parents is more compelling than that of the state."

By the end of the day, however, no appeal had been filed with the Delaware County Office of Judicial Support, which officials said was the starting place for any further hearings. Nix and the Mitchells did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-313-8134 or at dhardy@phillynews.com.

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