Missing sick girl had history of early hospital exits

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Phoenix police confirmed Tuesday that missing 11-year-old cancer patient Emily Bracamontes has been abruptly removed from treatment at a hospital on at least one other occasion.

On Nov. 28 at around 10:30 p.m., police say Emily's mother, Norma Bracamontes, walked the girl out of Phoenix Children's Hospital where she had been a patient for approximately a month. Bracamontes did not alert hospital staff that she would be removing her daughter.

Emily still has a catheter in her heart and police were notified by hospital staff out of concern she could be in grave danger if she did not receive medical treatment.

"If she doesn't have this catheter sealed correctly by medical staff, it is highly likely she could get an infection and die within a couple of days," said Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos.

Martos confirmed Tuesday that this is not the first time the family has abruptly removed Emily from cancer treatment at a hospital.

Martos could not confirm when or where the prior removal occurred, but did say, "It possibly happened in California."

Police have not filed any criminal charges in this case because Bracamontes has not surfaced for questioning, and they do not know why Emily was taken out of the hospital or if Emily has received medical treatment elsewhere.

Martos said Bracamontes may have removed Emily because of concerns about paying the bill, or because Emily contracted an infection at the hospital that led to the amputation of her arm.

"We don't know her motive, her intent, in removing Emily from the hospital," he said.

Emily's father, Luis, was stopped by authorities over the weekend as he was entering the United States from Mexico. He told police that he did not know his daughter had been removed from the hospital, according to Martos.

Phoenix attorney Brent Kleinman said because this has happened before, Emily's parents would have a harder time defending themselves if criminal charges were filed.

"If in fact the mom has repeatedly acted in this manner, she's going to have a much more difficult time with a good faith defense," Kleinman said.

He said that parents do have the right to take a child out of the hospital, but that right is outweighed by the best interest of the child in receiving medical care.

"If the state or another agency can prove there is an urgent need for medical care, then those parental rights are outweighed," Kleinman said.