MOTHER WHO SEEKS ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT FOR BABY, LOSES CUSTODY AND COURT BATTLE TO PREVENT SON'S SURGERY
Parents rights are overshadowed
by doctor’s opinion
Mother is arrested for kidnapping
June 29, 2006
KOMO Staff & News Services
TACOMA - A judge refused on Friday to grant a mother's request to block surgery she opposes on her baby
Tears rolled down the cheeks of Tina Carlsen, 34, of Sumner, after she heard the decision of Pierce
County Superior Court Judge John McCarthy.
Carlsen had wanted more time to pursue alternative natural treatments for 9-month-old Riley. The
boy is in state custody because doctors say he needs surgery for kidney treatment.
Carlsen will be allowed a two-hour visit with her son after the surgery.
"We believe it is important for Riley to have time with his mother and for the mother to have
time with her son," DSHS spokeswoman Kathy Spears said in a statement.
The court hearing Friday morning was prompted by a call from a group called Citizens for Safe
Birth, which asked for an emergency injunction to stop the surgery while a full hearing can be conducted.
The case is at the center of a storm over parents' rights, medical choice, and when the state
can take over.
Carlsen was released from jail Thursday after spending six days there for allegedly kidnapping
her son. She was freed on bail Thursday after a hearing in King County Superior Court and is awaiting trial on a charge of
second-degree domestic violence kidnapping. She could face up to a year in jail if convicted. But prosecutors agreed to drop
her bail from $500,000 to nothing, as long as she stays away from her son -- a son Carlsen clearly dotes over.
"Riley is the most awesome kid you've ever seen on the face of this Earth," she said. "He smiles
from ear to ear, he will light up a room."
Riley was born with small kidneys. Doctors at Children's Hospital said he needed surgery to go
on dialysis, and would eventually need a kidney transplant.
Carlsen says her "mother's instinct" didn't buy it; she favors a more natural approach.
"It made my gut wrench when they were telling me things and it just felt wrong, that's when I
started on my mad search for information," she said.
But the state took control and ordered the surgery; and Carlsen allegedly kidnapped Riley from
It prompted a statewide Amber Alert, where police said Riley would die without the surgery. Children's
later said Riley was not in imminent danger, but that his condition could go downhill rapidly.
Police caught up with the pair Saturday. Carlsen went to jail, while Riley went back to the hospital.
In the meantime, Carlsen received an outpouring of support.
"And I think there are other mothers out there who are thinking the same thing," says Debra O'Conner,
"how can anyone step in and tell us what we're going to do with our children's healthcare?"
Carlsen says she took off with Riley because she was afraid, but she says she's not afraid any
more with the support so many have offered.
She says people understand. "Mother to a mother, we all know, it's the she-bear kind of instinct."
Citizens for Safe Birth are advocating on behalf of Carlsen and have set up a legal defense fund
and a Web site. The address is www.helpbabyriley.com