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In Re Carthen





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. PETER F. COSTA, Judge, presiding.


A petition for adjudication of wardship was filed in the circuit court of Cook County alleging that Mario Carthen was a neglected minor in that his environment was injurious to his welfare in violation of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 37, par. 702-4(1)(b)). An adjudicatory hearing was held before Honorable Peter F. Costa who found Mario to be a neglected minor and adjudged him a ward of the court. Mario's mother, Mrs. Karen Carthen, was found to be unable to properly care for Mario. The court found that it was in the best interest of the child to appoint a guardian with the right to place. A dispositional hearing resulted in the commitment of Mario to the Department of Children and Family Services and the appointment of Richard Laymon, guardian, with the right to place. Respondent, Mrs. Karen Carthen, now appeals the ruling and we affirm.

The question for review is whether the trial court erred in allowing respondent's psychiatrist to testify as to certain facts over the objection that the relationship was privileged.

At the beginning of the hearing, the witnesses were excluded. Dr. Theodore J. Dulin, a psychiatrist and attending physician at Mount Sinai Hospital, testified that in April 1974, 22-year-old Karen Carthen became a voluntary psychiatric patient at the hospital. Her stay was for 15 days, initially, and then from May 17 to June 1, 1974.

Respondent was the mother of three children and was involved in an unhappy marriage. A product of a rather unhappy childhood, she was never close to her mother until recently, prior to her hospitalization. According to the doctor, she was a woman who had reason to develop many resentments, angers and hostilities which she kept to herself.

He explained that her feelings arose because of her unhappy childhood and because no one gave her any real support, including her mother.

While growing up, Karen Carthen was the second oldest of nine children and assumed many responsibilities, particularly for her younger brother, Chris. Her feelings toward him were mixed. On the one hand, she felt like his mother and on the other hand had many confrontations and fights with him. Mario reminded her of Chris.

For many years she held in her feelings and many nights cried herself to sleep. When her anger began to come out, Mario was the target. This occurred because of three factors: (1) the circumstances surrounding Mario's birth, (2) the fact that Mario reminded her of Chris, and (3) because her husband was "giving her so much heat." When the prosecutor asked the doctor to explain the circumstances surrounding Mario's birth, the defense counsel objected on the basis of a patient-doctor privilege. His objection was overruled and the doctor testified that Mario's birth was the result of a rape. The doctor added that Mrs. Carthen felt that Mario was a bright boy but deliberately antagonized her.

In 1974, Dr. Dulin diagnosed Mrs. Carthen as having a passive-aggressive personality, i.e., one subject to sudden or gradual behavioral changes. He noted that during her hospital stay she seemed to develop adequate insight and made realistic plans but was unable to follow through.

Mrs. Virginia Spear, a social worker and a member of the child-abuse consultant team at Wyler's Children's Hospital, testified that she first came in contact with Mario and his mother in April 1974. A doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital had referred them to her. On March 13, 1975, Mrs. Carthen told Mrs. Spear that she had tried to kill Mario by strangling him with a television cord until he stopped breathing. Then she slapped his face so he would start breathing. Respondent told Mrs. Spear Mario was the product of a rape, she hated Mario and had told him so, and she wanted to place him. Arrangements were made for Mario's placement for the following day. When Mrs. Carthen did not bring the child in at the designated time, Mrs. Spear called her at home. Over the telephone she sounded quite upset and related that Mario had placed a bag over his head that morning and she had trouble getting it off.

When Mario was placed in the hospital on March 14, 1975, his mother was very much in agreement with the placement. Mrs. Spear was present when Mario was examined by the doctor, and she noticed there were some old scars on his legs and arms but none on his neck.

Mr. Robert Ruhloff, a social worker for the Department of Children and Family Services, testified that he first met Mrs. Carthen in March 1975. Her case was referred to his agency by Wyler's Children's Hospital when a hospital report of suspected child abuse was filed. He was assigned the follow-up which entailed arranging for Mario's placement.

Mr. Ruhloff spoke with Mrs. Carthen on March 20, 1975, in her home. For about 1 year, she had been hospitalized at Mount Sinai Hospital and thereafter became an outpatient and continued to go there for counseling.

Again, he spoke with her on June 13, 1975, at her home. A couple of weeks before their meeting, she had been released from Loretta Hospital. This time her hospitalization occurred because she had been feeling badly, had been depressed, was weak and had not been eating ...

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