The Netflix documentary “Taking Care of Maya” follows Maya Kowalski, a young woman, and her mother, Beata, who was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome in 2015 at the age of 9 . The story takes a crucial, tragic turn, but that’s what holds the interest of so many viewers. A lot of people are now wondering what happened to Maya’s mother, Beata, and why her family and everyone who watched the documentary was so outraged.
Beata, a Polish immigrant who graduated from nursing school after arriving in the U.S., became an essential part of the nursing workforce after her daughter’s diagnosis. Maya was diagnosed with daily ketamine to treat her symptoms, which included pain in multiple areas of her body and asthma. In 2016, Maya’s symptoms returned, including severe stomach pain, and she was taken to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital for treatment. Once there, doctors were apparently appalled by the amount of ketamine in Maya’s system, going so far as to text her and call her a “ketamine girl.”
Doctors wanted to stop the treatment, and became suspicious when Beata insisted on continuing it. This, combined with Beata’s seemingly aggressive personality, prompted the doctor to bring in a social worker, who eventually said Beata had “mental health issues.” Pediatrician Sally Smith, who was assigned to investigate the case, diagnosed Beta as Munchausen through a surrogate and suggested that she deliberately made Maya sick. Maya was held in state custody and was given little contact with her parents.
In January 2017, just three months after being accused of intentionally making her daughter ill, Beata committed suicide in her garage. Days after Beta’s death, a judge ruled that the separation from their daughter should continue, and the Kowalskis filed a lawsuit against all UNICEF. The lawsuit alleges that false allegations of abuse ultimately contributed to Beata’s death. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2019, was delayed until September 2023 after the hospital appealed. Despite her death, Beata’s voice is full of “care for Maya,” and we hear on phone calls and other taped conversations that she is desperate to find care for her baby.
The documentary’s makers say it’s a national problem and they’ve heard from others who have gone through situations similar to Beata’s. Director Henry Roosevelt told Vanity Fair that it was “a national pattern of families accused of molesting children while proclaiming their innocence.”
After Beata’s death, Maya was allowed to return to her father. While the case is still pending, the producers still want to tell their story. “There comes a day when you have to stop filming,” says producer Caroline Keating. “But that’s the truth about them, the trial hasn’t started yet. We think it’s important to show they’re still fighting.”