A mother from Renton, Washington, who adopted an orphan girl from Africa, has been charged with second-degree assault of a child and second-degree attempted assault of a child for “medical child abuse.”
In 2019, Sophie Hartman told KING 5 that her child suffered from alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC), a rare neurological condition.
Hartman told the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2018 that AHC might cause her daughter to become “paralyzed” at any 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.”
Hartman, 31, has been investigated by several doctors who suspected her adopted daughter was receiving unneeded medical treatment at her mother’s request.
Hartman is accused of “subjecting her 6-year-old child to medically unnecessary surgical interventions and restraints,” according to a charging document from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Filed on May 24, the charging records said the girl had undergone more than 474 medical appointments since 2016.
According to records, the girl, identified only by her initials C.H., had surgery in July 2017 to put a gastrostomy tube into her digestive tract, which gives nourishment if the patient is unable to eat. The records also found that the girl also had a treatment to deliver nutrients straight into a vein.
The girl also had surgical implantation to prevent early puberty, a treatment that requires anesthesia.
The records indicated that the child wore leg braces and used a wheelchair despite doctors assuring Hartman that they were unneeded.
However, doctors found that the child was able to drink fluids on her own without a feeding tube, use the bathroom willingly without a tube to flush out her intestines, and run and walk without the aid of a knee brace or a wheelchair after a 16-day observation at Seattle Children’s Hospital in March.
“At no point during her admission were there any findings or reported symptoms to support any of her prior diagnoses,” as stated in the charging document against Hartman.
“All the available evidence obtained during the course of her admission suggests C.H. is a healthy young 6-year-old who would continue to benefit from de-escalation of medical support and normalization of her childhood experience.”
In February, four medical professionals on the child’s care team sent a report to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, which was reviewed and signed by Seattle Children’s Hospital’s medical director, describing the risk to her child as “profound.”
“Consultation was requested of the Safe Child and Adolescent Network (SCAN) in early 2019 by a group of (redacted) specialists and providers at Seattle Children’s Hospital because of a concern regarding a pattern of parental requests for increasingly invasive procedures based upon undocumented signs and symptoms reported by the parent,” investigative reports read.
“This situation is a case of medical child abuse,” stated the report.
“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.”
However, Adam Shapiro, Hartman’s attorney, denied allegations against Hartman.
“Miss Hartman was a wonderful mother, who has done everything to try to help her child,” Shapiro told King 5 in an interview.
Hartman’s attorneys issued the following statement on her behalf:
“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 victims in this case are Sophie Hartman, her children and her family who are having to fight wholly unjustified charges,” he concluded.
Dr. Eli Newberger, an independent medical child abuse expert has also been referenced by Shapiro.
“From my review, there is no history, psychological, physical examination, or neurological evidence that contradicts the diagnosis of AHC, much less justifies a diagnosis of “medical child abuse,” Dr. Eli said in a letter addressed to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.