Federal jury sides with Idaho hospital, physician in parental medical rights lawsuit

A federal jury ruled Wednesday that a family's constitutional rights were not violated when their infant daughter was given a spinal tap against their wishes.

The jury deliberated for five days before reaching its verdict in a civil lawsuit brought by Corissa and Eric Mueller against the Boise police department, St. Luke's Regional Medical Center and Dr. Richard MacDonald.

The Muellers, who lived in Boise but now reside in Hawaii, claimed their constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure were violated in 2002 when a Boise police officer took custody of their five-week-old daughter, Taige, so a doctor could check for signs of meningitis.

Doctors performed a spinal tap on Taige against her mother's wishes. Corissa Mueller was also barred from calling another physician or her husband and was threatened to be fitted with handcuffs and put in jail.

The jury unanimously rejected the Muellers' claims that the police, hospital staff or Dr. MacDonald infringed on the parents' constitutional rights. It also freed the defendants from any liability for interfering with the mother's custodial relationship with her daughter.

"This is a vindication of the hospital, a vindication of the doctor and of the city's police department," said J. Walter Sinclair, the attorney representing the hospital. "All the parties involved in this case were trying to do the right thing for the girl."

Eric and Corissa Mueller said they were disappointed, but remained convinced that pressing their case in court was the right thing to do. The Muellers had hoped their case would shed a spotlight on what they consider is an imbalance in the rights of parents to determine a child's medical care over physicians.

"We're disappointed," Corissa Mueller said after the verdict. "Our motivation from the start was not about money, but showing how this was a violation of our rights and to set a precedent."