MPR Outlines Deficiencies in CNN ‘Escape from Mayo Clinic’ Series

On Monday, CNN published a series involving a former patient titled Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Teen accuses world-famous hospital of 'medical kidnapping'.

Last night Minnesota Public Radio followed up, outlining some of the major deficiencies in the CNN story:

In an interview Wednesday, Dr. Michael Harper, executive dean for practice at Mayo, said the hospital had grave concerns about the family's ability to care for the woman, who was an 18-year-old high school senior at the time.

"I am absolutely convinced that Mayo handled the situation in the best possible way for meeting the needs of the patient, keeping those needs at the forefront and protecting the staff," Harper said.

Mayo told MPR News it told CNN of its concerns about the mother during a three-hour off-camera meeting. Specifically, the hospital said they were worried that the mother:

  • Was unwilling to learn how to care for her daughter once she was released from Mayo.
  • Resisted the doctor's advice that the teen be taken off of opioids.
  • Was physically aggressive with Mayo staff.

Mayo said all those factors played into its decision to block the mother from Mayo's campus and, given her banishment, to seek outside guardianship for the patient to make medical decisions on her behalf after a major surgery because they deemed her a vulnerable adult who could not make her own medical decisions.

In its statement, Harper acknowledged it declined an on-camera interview "because doing so would bring negative publicity to a vulnerable adult in a suspected abusive family environment."

Despite the allegations of abuse, MPR News has found no evidence that anyone has been charged criminally in the case.

MPR News is not naming the patient to protect her and the children in her family. MPR News is also not naming her parents because doing so could identify the children.

Child protection petition filed

However last month, a Martin County judge issued an order removing the Mayo patient's five younger half-siblings from her mother's care, according to the court filing citing a series of reports of neglect, physical and emotional abuse.

The court records also said the mother tested positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines in late July when a county official visited her home in Sherburne to investigate child abuse reports. At that time the children were removed from her care and placed in the care of their father, who is also the patient's stepfather.

Read the whole story.

Interestingly, the MPR reporter, Catherine Richert, was able to corroborate concerns about the family situation through public records within just a couple of days.

CNN worked on the story for 18 months. Its reporters and editors either ignored or refused to check publicly available records that ran counter to their predetermined narrative.

In the audio version of the story, Ms. Richert also describes (beginning at about the 2:20 mark) how the patient's mother's story has changed:

Well, oddly enough, this story for me actually starts in March of 2017, and that's when the mother wrote MPR to say that her daughter had recently been "pushed out the door" of Mayo after their insurance changed.

As a journalist, this immediately raised a red flag for me, because the mother had tried to tell us an entirely different story than what she told CNN: that her daughter had to escape the Mayo Clinic.

Furthermore, publicly available documents, additional on-the-record interviews and a series of reports Mayo made available tell a really different story than the one CNN reported.

Listen to the whole thing.

Late yesterday our Mayo Clinic Public Affairs chair, Chris Gade, wrote to CNN about our strong disagreement with the “inaccurate, incomplete and irresponsible” reporting of the story. That letter and a related statement are on our Mayo Clinic News Network.

Read our full response to the inaccurate, incomplete and irresponsible reporting by CNN in this week’s “Escape from Mayo Clinic” series. 

Please also help us correct the record by sharing this post, the MPR story or the related posts below on your social media accounts.

Update 8/17: Here's an additional follow-up story by MPR after CNN's response.

Lee Aase is a Communications Director for Mayo Clinic's Social & Digital Innovation team and is Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

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