Washington mother charged in ‘medical child abuse’ case against adopted 6-year-old daughter

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A Renton, Washington mother under investigation for allegations of “medical child abuse” been charged with second-degree assault of a child and second-degree attempted assault of a child.

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Charging documents from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office obtained by King 5 News allege  31-year-old Sophie Hartman subjected her Black, adopted 6-year-old daughter to “medically unnecessary surgical interventions and restraints” for treatment of a rare neurological disease known as Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood.

The documents note that the child has undergone nearly 500 medical appointments since she was around 2 years old and was given a surgically implanted feeding tube, as well as a cecostomy tube, to help flush the intestines. In addition, the documents state child also had leg braces and a wheelchair despite doctors telling Hartman that they were unnecessary.

Four medical professionals on the child’s care team issued a report to the Washington State Department of Children Youth and Families in February, reviewed and signed by the medical director for Seattle Children’s Hospital, in which they call the risk to her child “profound.”

“This situation is a case of medical child abuse,” the report reads. “It is not necessary to know the possible motivation of a caregiver, only the outcome of the behavior. It is my concern that this pattern has resulted in unnecessary medical testing, medication, procedures, surgeries and debility of this child.”

Following the report, DCYF contacted the Renton Police Department, who began their own investigation. 

Hartman told Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2018 that AHC would make her daughter “go paralyzed” at any given time. 

“She can lose the ability to talk and go into all different types of seizures and have extreme pain,” Hartman said. “It’s really tough.”

She added that doctors and “even the best pediatric specialists, do not know what to do and do not have treatment options.”

“She needs access to oxygen because her breathing shallows and slows,” Hartman continued. “She depends on her feeding tube when she’s unable to eat.” 

Sophie Hartman (Photo courtesy of Make A Wish Foundation) 

In 2019, after her daughter received her wish, Hartman said her daughter’s supposed disorder “has been likened to a time bomb, that is a human time bomb for which there is no cure.”

“For us, this is what life looks like,” Hartman added. “It’s navigating constant traumatic chaos, making plans that will inevitably fall through and battling resentment and bitterness for all that is outside of our control.”

According search warrants, while Hartman’s daughter was diagnosed with AHC, doctors told investigators the diagnosis was based on information directly from Hartman, and that none of the symptoms, including severe seizures, had been observed firsthand. 

“At no point during her admission were there any findings or reported symptoms to support any of her prior diagnoses,” the court documents state. “All the available evidence obtained during the course of her admission suggests (redacted) is a health young 6-year-old.” 

The girl was removed from Hartman’s care in March.

Court documents also reveal that investigators found a series of diary entries in which Hartman allegedly mentioned various instances in which she lied about having different illnesses when she was younger, including meningitis and mono. 

In one entry, Hartman allegedly said “when it comes to suffering, I am a compulsive liar/exaggerator.”

Hartman’s attorneys told Q13 Fox that Hartman is innocent of the “wholly unjustified” charges from King County prosecutors, adding that they are “based on false statements and misrepresentations of the medical record by a doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital who has never seen the child or spoken with Ms. Hartman,” despite “overwhelming objective evidence” supporting the diagnosis.

“Ms. Hartman’s child was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, by one of the few expert pediatric neurologists in the world from Duke University and by a neurologist at Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma,” the lawyers continued. “Contrary to the allegations of the King County Prosecuting Attorney, the child’s diagnosis was made by more than one doctor, is legitimate, and is based on a substantial record beyond the reports and information provided by Ms. Hartman. That record includes independent medical examinations by multiple doctors, direct observation of the child by doctors and nurses at Duke and at Seattle Children’s Hospital, standardized testing results, videotapes of the child’s symptoms, MRI, EEG and other diagnostic tests.”

The lawyers added that the King County Prosecuting Attorney has the medical records from Duke as well as records from Seattle Children’s Hospital “amply supporting the diagnosis” as well as “the consistent reports of Ms. Hartman.” 

Make-A-Wish told Q13 Fox that it was “deeply saddened and dismayed to learn about the alleged child abuse case involving one of our former wish families” and that the health and well-being of its wish children are “always of paramount concern to us.”

“We work very closely with medical professionals throughout the wish process – from approving wish paperwork to ensure the child is eligible for our program, to approving the wish itself so it is safe and appropriate given the child’s medical diagnosis,” the organization continued. “This is a very serious allegation and any threat to the wellbeing of a child is not in alignment with the child-centered focus of our mission. We hope this matter is quickly remedied in the best interest of the child.”

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