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This documentary chronicles the tragic loss within an immigrant family due to systemic failures of America’s child protection system. When 10-year-old Maya Kowalski experiences a rare form of mysterious and debilitating pain that escapes most physicians in the local medical system, her dedicated mother, Beata, who is a nurse, decides to seek diagnosis elsewhere. Maya was cured by Dr. Kirkpatrick in Mexico, who used a nonconventional treatment method that most physicians would not have adopted. But when Maya’s illness flared up again and landed her in the ER a few months later, the local hospital began to question Maya’s parents, insinuating medical child abuse.

Beata does not back down, even as Maya is placed into state custody. The family is forbidden from visiting Maya, who stays in the hospital alone and without family visitors for the next three months. Beata and her husband are held in limbo by a seemingly corrupt system that in this case wrongly accuses parents of child abuse. Eventually, Beata suffers from severe depression due to the separation from her daughter and takes her own life.

Because the movie is part of a campaign for justice for the Kowalski family, the narrative is necessarily sympathetic but no less evidence-based. The jury eventually finds the hospital liable for the many sufferings of the family, including false imprisonment, medical negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress causing death. Maya speaks these words to the press: “To me, it was about the answer—knowing that my mom was right.”

Injustice and oppression can take on different forms and, in this case, it is found in the hospital system and child protection services where care for the most vulnerable is supposed to be a core value. Leviticus 19:15 says, “Do not pervert justice.” When houses of worship or institutions of care change into profit-driven, dehumanizing machines, they betray the public trust in the community and bring harm to families.

This documentary has led to a public outcry against a broken system, and that is the beginning of change toward justice. (Netflix. Content about abuse, family separation and suicide. Rated PG-13)

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