CNN, Mayo Clinic at war over report on teen who 'broke out of' esteemed hospital

CNN and the esteemed Mayo Clinic are at war after the hospital disputed a story and accused the news organization of knowingly withholding context and clarification – but CNN is standing by its reporting.

CNN published a series this week headlined, “Escape from the Mayo Clinic,” about parents who allegedly helped their teen daughter break out of the famed hospital because they were unhappy with the care being provided. The teenager, Alyssa Gilderhus, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on Christmas morning in 2016, and needed emergency surgery but eventually grew tired of the Mayo Clinic’s rehab facilities.

CNN reported that Gilderhus’ mother was kicked out of the Mayo Clinic by a physician after she repeatedly complained about the hospital. The report claims Gilderhus’ family was eventually barred from staying at overnight, that the hospital wanted to gain guardianship of the Minnesota teen and that requests to switch infirmaries were ignored – so the family broke her out of the Mayo Clinic after duping hospital officials. The prison-style escape was captured on video by Gilderhus’ family.

The Mayo Clinic issued a scathing statement in response to CNN’s story, declaring that safety is a top priority and “is at the forefront of the care we deliver to each patient.”

“We are unwavering in our dedication to do what is best for every patient, every time. This patient’s case was no exception,” the clinic’s statement said. “Following a thorough and careful review of the care in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN are not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous other providers on the patient’s care team.”

The Mayo Clinic said it conducted an internal review that “determined that the care team’s actions were true to Mayo Clinic’s primary value that the patient’s needs come first.” The clinic said it will not discuss specific patients but “provided life-saving care” for the subject of CNN’s report.

"This story lacks further clarification and context that CNN knew but chose not to use."

— Mayo Clinic

“This story lacks further clarification and context that CNN knew but chose not to use,” the statement said.

CNN published a detailed account of how it claims the story was reported.

CNN said the story is “based on interviews with Alyssa and members of her family, a family friend, law enforcement officials and a former member of a Mayo Clinic board, as well as documents including law enforcement records and Alyssa's medical records.”

“While reporting this story, the authors had multiple conversations over many months with Ginger Plumbo, a spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic. The authors also met with Plumbo and four senior Mayo officials on the condition that the information provided would be off the record,” CNN wrote.

According to CNN, Plumbo told the reporters that Mayo staffers consented to the off-the-record meeting with hopes that the news organization would reconsider its decision to run the story about Gilderhus’ escape.

CNN said that Plumbo initially said Mayo officials would answer the news outlet's questions on the record if Gilderhus signed a consent form – which she signed. However, CNN said the Mayo Clinic then declined to answer questions and provided a statement instead.

"Following careful review of the situation in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN are not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous others who were involved. We feel we have provided CNN with more than ample information to support our findings and are deeply disappointed that the producers have chosen to pursue a false story based on a pre-determined narrative,” the Mayo Clinic told CNN. “We will not address these questionable allegations or publicly share the facts of this complex situation, because we do not believe it's in the best interest of the patient and the family.”

CNN said that prior to the Mayo Clinic issuing the statement above, Plumbo provided a separate comment about Gilderhus’s mother being banned from the hospital.

"Our care teams act in the best interests of our patients. As a general practice, this includes sharing information with family members and facilitating family visits and interactions with patients and their care providers when the patient is in our care. However, in situations where care may be compromised or the safety and security of our staff are potentially at risk, the family members' ability to be present in the hospital may be restricted," Plumbo reportedly told CNN.

Gilderhus, who is now 20, graduated from Martin County West High School and will be a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in September, according to CNN. She was initially given only a two percent chance of surviving.

The Mayo Clinic did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment, pointing Fox News to the statement on its website. CNN did not respond to a request for comment.