Over the last few years Hollywood has dove into stories about mother’s who suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disease where caretakers of children often create fictitious symptoms and disorders in order to maintain the child’s dependence.
In Renton, Washington, a white foster mother was charged with second-degree assault of her Black six-year-old foster care daughter in addition to second-degree attempted assault of a child, once investigators revealed that she fabricating symptoms resulting in strenuous procedures and surgeries.
Investigators uncovered a dark and disturbing case in which the foster mother, 31-year-old Sophie Hartman, made her daughter undergo unnecessary medical treatment by medical professionals as a result, Q13 News reports.
Hartman’s daughter was diagnosed with AHC, which results in random paralysis attacks on different portions of the body. The disease however was diagnosed on the basis of Hartman’s reports to medical professionals regarding her daughter’s symptoms. The care team later told detectives that the child did not have the disease.
Treatments included at least 500 medical appointments which included the implantation of a feeding tube, a cecostomy tube used to administer an enema, leg braces and placement in a wheelchair. Court documents show that the child underwent the procedures even though doctors forewarned Hartman that the treatments were unnecessary.
In 2019 the child’s care team launched an investigation into Hartman and authored a letter which stated the “pattern of parental requests for increasingly invasive procedures based on undocumented symptoms reported by parent,” which they categorized the risk as “profound” and subject to “escalating.”
Like the disturbing stories depicted in Hollywood, Hartman used her daughter’s fabricated diagnosis to warrant attention, as the subject of different Make-A-Wish foundation fundraisers and news segments which raised awareness around her daughter’s condition.
Investigators also pointed to a diary entry of Hartman’s where she described herself as such, “when it comes to suffering, I am a compulsive liar/exaggerator.”
Once the child was removed from the home in March, court documents show that she was physically healthy and there was no evidence to support an AHC diagnosis.
Hartman’s legal team maintains that she was a doting mother who was labored by the intensity of taking care of an ill child.
The medical records in this case have been reviewed by Dr. Eli Newberger, a medical child abuse doctor with 40 years of experience, who has advised the King County Prosecuting Attorney that filing charges against Ms. Hartman is a “miscarriage of justice.” Dr. Newberger’s letter is attached. The victims in this case are Sophie Hartman, her children and her family who are having to fight wholly unjustified charges,” a statement from her attorney reads.