Alisha Newman is an Oklahoma City mother arrested in Wisconsin and charged with faking her 10-year-old daughter’s health condition, resulting in unnecessary and potentially deadly treatments, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Newman, a 34-year-old licensed nurse, was charged in Milwaukee with one count each of physical child abuse, recklessly causing great bodily harm and child neglect, WITI reported.
According to investigators, Newman faked her daughter’s health information to doctors in numerous states. As a result, her daughter underwent treatments including the installation of a pacemaker, a feeding tube, and IV port.
Newman told doctors at a Wisconsin hospital that her daughter was diagnosed with dysautonomia, muscular dystrophy, mitochondrial disease, hypertension and hypotension, and severe dysmotility.
A team of doctors found no muscular dystrophy or mitochondrial disorders and additional testing found no evidence of any rare disorders.
Alyssa Stephany, the medical director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine for Children’s Hospital, told investigators that she believes the girl is the victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a parent exaggerates or even induces health problems for an otherwise healthy child, often to gain attention or sympathy.
Newman is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on June 7. Her bond was set at $50,000.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Alisha Newman’s Daughter Was Hospitalized After Falling Severely Ill
Newman brought her daughter to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to see a gastroenterologist after she became severely ill, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Journal Sentinel.
Doctors said the girl’s skin looked pale and ashen when she was brought in. The child was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit and diagnosed with severe shock, acute renal failure, organ damage, and acidosis.
Testing found that the child was suffering from a common gut bacteria and was treated for 10 days without antibiotics.
2. Doctors Discovered The Girl Had Been Hospitalized for 21 Days Just Weeks Earlier
While the girl was hospitalized, doctors learned that she was hospitalized just five weeks earlier in Oklahoma for a condition called Klebsiella sepsis and bacteremia.
The child was treated with antibiotics and hospitalized for 21 days.
According to the criminal complaint, Newman had brought her daughter to see medical providers in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, and Tennessee as well as Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
Neighbors told KOCO News that they do not see Newman’s daughter very often but have seen her in a wheelchair.
“This is a case that, in essence, involves a continuing course of conduct and offense that has lasted the entirety of this child’s life,” Milwaukee County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Torbenson told the court Tuesday, according to WITI.
3. Doctors Found No Evidence The Child Had The Conditions Newman Claimed
While the child was hospitalized in Wisconsin, Newman told the hospital staff that her daughter was diagnosed with dysautonomia, muscular dystrophy, mitochondrial disease, hypertension and hypotension, and severe dysmotility.
The hospital confirmed that the child had a pacemaker in her heart, a port to receive IV fluids, and a gastro tube.
Doctors grew concerned after learning that the girl was evaluated by a team of doctors from the Nelson Service for Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases in November 2016, who determined the child did not have muscular dystrophy or any mitochondrial disorders.
Further testing at Children’s Hospital found no evidence of rare disorders.
The “test results, which were negative, were also communicated via email to Newman,” according to court records obtained by WITI.
4. Doctors Believe The Child is a Victim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
Alyssa Stephany, medical director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine for Children’s Hospital, told investigators that she reviewed the girl’s medical records since her birth and found a pattern of Newman providing false information to medical providers.
Stephany said that Newman compounded the risks of providing false medical information by taking her to different medical providers which resulted in more unnecessary medical procedures.
“There is a high degree of concern on the part of multiple medical providers that the (initials redacted) girl is the victim of factitious disorder by proxy on the part of the defendant (Newman),” Stephany told investigators according to the criminal complaint.
Factitious disorder is better known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which a parent exaggerates or induces medical problems for an otherwise healthy child, often as a way to garner attention or sympathy.
On her Facebook page, Newman frequently posted about her daughter’s hospitalizations and praised her husband for supporting her through difficult times.
Newman’s attorney Martin Pruhs argued in court that the “alleged criminal acts aren’t intentional” and insisted that she would not “continue to pose any potential danger to the alleged victim in this case,” according to WITI.
After the hearing, Newman appeared to face her husband in the courtroom and mouth the words “help me,” according to WITI.
She faces up to 15 years in prison and $50,000 in fines if convicted.
5. Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy Can Have Deadly Consequences
Cases involving Munchausen syndrome by proxy can have deadly consequences for the child and the parent.
One recent case involved Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a woman who pleaded guilty to murdering her mother after she reportedly forced her to fake disabilities and cancer.
Mother Dee Dee Blanchard convinced her daughter she had leukemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, asthma and poor vision, resulting in numerous unnecessary surgeries.
The case is now the subject of the Hulu drama “The Act.”