Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Medical child abuse


"'The motive is bizarre, the motive is scary, bit it exists,' Assistant District Attorney Patricia Miller said in closing arguments Thursday. 'She apparently craved the attention of her family, her friends, her co-workers and most particularly the medical profession.'

She suggested that Spears, 27, eventually killed the boy because she feared he would start telling people she was making him ill. 'Her actions were nothing short of torture,' she said."

But also see:

"When complications set in, as they often did for Isaiah, the hospital was ill-equipped to diagnose or relieve his suffering. Michelle, a registered nurse by profession, believed it was her right and responsibility as his mother to have her son transferred to a hospital that had successfully treated him in the past.
The hospital administration did not see it that way.
Instead of complying, two social workers and the director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) led Michelle into a small room. There she was stripped of her hospital band and parental rights. After informing the distraught mother they were charging her with “medical child abuse” (also known as  Munchausen by proxy), they waited for her to stop sobbing and escorted her out of the hospital.
While in the ICU, Isaiah was forcibly separated from his mother far beyond the customary 48 hours. He was not allowed to see or hear from his mother for 24 days. He was then dumped in a foster home.
That was over a year ago."



  1. Medical child abuse or parental diligence?

    "The bill Rep. Wilson introduced states that a parent cannot be charged with Medical Child Abuse for disagreeing with medical advice and choosing treatment of another doctor." See


    Follow up:

  3. See:

  4. See:

  5. Police: Mother put healthy child through numerous medical tests

  6. Proposed Missouri Medical Child Abuse Law Prompts Sharp Division

    "This is being called 'Isaiah's law', for Isaiah Rider...(see above)" Also, see Rep. Wilson above.

  7. A horrific case of "medical child abuse"

  8. A young child was admitted for the final time after an hypoxic event. There had been numerous antecedent presentations to emergency departments, as well as hospital admissions, for ALTE-like events with unrevealing diagnostic studies. With the final admission, the hypoxic injury was ultimately fatal. In the PICU, the intensivist met with the mother and asked, "Is there any chance that you are harming your child?" The mother responded, "I know that I have hurt my child," following which a full disclosure occurred.

    See: Truman TL, Ayoub CC. Considering suffocatory abuse and Munchausen by proxy in the evaluation of children experiencing apparent life-threatening events and
    sudden infant death syndrome. Child Maltreat. 2002 May;7(2):138-48.

    A child was admitted for videoEEG monitoring. During the course of monitoring, which was not done covertly, the mother suffocates the child twice. The first time her rather ample body is between the child and the camera. The second time, the mother reaches up, turns the camera away, and then proceeds to suffocate the child. When done, she directs the camera back to the child. Following each of these events, a nurse is summoned.

    See: Bryk M, Siegel PT. My mother caused my illness: the story of a survivor of
    M√ľnchausen by proxy syndrome. Pediatrics. 1997 Jul;100(1):1-7.

  9. Medical child abuse or parental diligence?

  10. Re 4/15/15 11:26 am entry above: See

  11. A 3-year-old boy was in intensive care at another hospital with symptoms his doctors considered life-threatening, including a low heart rate, low blood pressure, lethargy, and a depressed mental state.

    Earlier in the week, the boy's mother had taken him to the hospital and told the staff the child's grandmother had given him gelsemium, a homeopathic remedy for fever. He soon recovered and was sent home from the hospital.

    Two days later, however, the child was readmitted with similar symptoms, including hypotension and small pupils. His mother gave the same explanation. As the day progressed, the boy got better. But after he had dinner with his mother, he was worse...

    The child's symptoms suggested he somehow was receiving an opiate or a class of medications that include agents that treat blood pressure in adults and ADHD in kids, and that are the active ingredient in over-the-counter eyedrops. I suggested the medical team determine whether the boy's mother had any such medications in her possession.

    Hospital staffers believed the mother's version of events, especially because she seemed a caring, concerned parent. But they did as I asked and learned she was carrying Visine in her purse.

    Once I heard about the eyedrops, I suggested it was time to call the police and report a suspected case of medical child abuse.

    Not surprisingly, hospital staffers were skeptical. I hadn't even seen the child, and I was telling them I suspected his mother was poisoning him...

    They confirmed that tetrahydrozoline, the active ingredient in Visine, was in the boy's urine, in his sippy cup, and in other bottles at home.

    Ultimately, the mother, 23, of Franklin Township, Adams County, was arrested on charges of attempting to poison both of her children. The 1-year-old got sick after drinking a bottle she had prepared for his older brother.

    Samantha Elizabeth Unger admitted she put Visine in her child's water and juice in an effort to incriminate her mother, according to media reports. She pleaded guilty and was sent to prison.


  12. See April 22,2015 above, first paragraph. Timothy was taken to the hospital by paramedics that had been called to his home. He lapsed into a coma and died 6 days later. Police had been called to the home seven times in the past two months when Timothy had stopped breathing. When questioned, Timothy's mother, JoAnne Vojta, 28, told doctors and a social worker that she routinely smothered her little boy by cupping her hand over his mouth and nose to stop him from breathing. She reported she did this to prevent her estranged husband from visiting or gaining custody of Timothy. She wanted him hospitalized where she felt he would be safe from his father, Keven Vojta, of Coon Rapids. In an order for protection filed on Februray 20, 1992, JoAnne Vojta reported that Kevin was abusive toward her and the baby. She said he raped her in 1991, poured ice-cold water on Timothy because he was crying and yanked on the baby's arms. She also reported that he told her he would "take a gun to her to get Timothy," and she feared her husband would abduct Timothy out of state. JoAnne was charged with first-degree murder.

    Copy of newpaper article available on request

  13. But even that assessment, defense attorney Stephen Riebling said, doesn’t completely jibe with Spears’s (see post above) actions. When her child was in the throes of his final sickness, hospital video captured one scene in which she put socks on her son’s feet when no one was around to see. “If she’s planning on killing him, why does she care whether his feet are cold?” he asked.

    The answer could be that she never intended to kill him. She just wanted to make him sick.

    Is that possible? “The purpose is not to kill the child but to keep her sick, so that the mother can be in a relationship with the doctor, who would recognize her devotion, knowledge and sacrifice,” psychiatrist Herbert Schreier of Children’s Hospital Oakland once told Psychology Today, speaking generally rather than about any particular case.

    Spears’s lawyer did not use the syndrome as a defense in the trial and the subject did not come up in testimony, except in expert commentary in the media reports about her case. The child fatality report after the death reflected concern for Lacey Spears’s “emotional stability and it was presumed she suffered from Postpartum Depression and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy,” Hudson Valley’s Journal-News said.

    The syndrome has a long and contested history marked by adaptations to new technologies. Originally conceived as Munchausen syndrome, which describes someone who fabricates illnesses to curry sympathy with the medical community, a new branch of the disorder was introduced in a 1977 paper in the British medical journal the Lancet. Calling it the “hinterland of child abuse,” the article described patients who “by falsification, caused their children innumerable harmful hospital procedures.”

    The syndrome came under criticism when the author of that study, a well-known British pediatrician named Roy Meadow, offered a wildly inaccurate statistical analysis during the trial of a woman suspected to have the disorder. His debunked assessment contributed to a lengthy prison sentence from which she later walked free and caused some to dispute his work. It just seemed too outlandish. Why on Earth would a woman purposely sicken her child?

    But anecdotes kept coming. In 1999, a Florida woman was convicted of aggravated child abuse after she intentionally sickened her child and made her go through 40 pointless surgeries, reviving the specter of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

    For those afflicted by the syndrome, Feldman said, social media offers an almost irresistible avenue for sympathy. He called this additional vein of the illness “Munchausen By Proxy by Internet.” In the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, he described one woman he named “Ms. A” who joined an online community for pregnant women with a tale of woe. She claimed to have five children — two sets of twins and a niece she cared for after her sister’s death.

    One of them, she told the group, was sick with gastroesophageal reflux and celiac disease. “Online friends offered sympathy and support,” but the whole thing was a ruse. “Ms. A” was actually a childless 21-year-old woman who “appeared to covet sympathy engendered by her deceptions.”

  14. Tarrant County, Texas prosecutors have dismissed charges against a mother who was the focus of a KARE 11 investigation into a child subjected to years of possibly unnecessary medical treatment and mind-numbing medications.

    Court records show Texas prosecutors dismissed the charges because they claim the "criminal charges occurred in Ramsey County…and the allegations against her should be prosecuted there."

    Mary Welch had been indicted by a Texas grand jury on felony charges of attempting to cause serious bodily injury to a child and child endangerment.

    But in April of 2015, Ramsey County prosecutors declined to file charges against Welch.

    In a letter obtained by KARE 11 to an Investigator with the Tarrant County Texas District Attorney's Office, the Ramsey County Attorney's office announced they've decided to defer any charging decisions against the boy's mother until the Texas case was resolved...

    Because the worst of the alleged abuse, the surgeries, happened in Minnesota, Texas investigators presented Ramsey County with evidence to determine if charges are warranted here as well. But in the letter dated April 16, 2015, Assistant Director of the Criminal Division at the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney Jill Gerber wrote:

    "Our office has spent considerable time reviewing thousands of pages of medical records, investigative reports, and affidavits related to these allegations. Based on our review of all this information including the status of the ongoing criminal case against Ms. Welch by the Tarrant County District Attorney's office, we are deferring any charging decisions concerning Ms. Welch related to the allegations made against her based on her conduct in Minnesota until such time as the pending case against her in Texas is resolved. The reasons for this decision include:

    The Texas prosecution against Ms. Welch is well underway, and the criminal penalties for her alleged conduct in Minnesota are no greater than those available in Texas for similar, supportable charges...

    Under Minnesota criminal sentencing guidelines, it is unlikely that any criminal sentence against Ms. Welch in Minnesota would be served consecutively to any sentence imposed against her in Texas.

    For these reasons, we believe that the best interests of the victim are presently being well protected and served through the pending Texas prosecution. Additionally, since all of the witnesses including the victim reside in Texas, the interests and efficiencies of justice compel us to be mindful of the potential hardships to the victim and witnesses caused by cases pending in both Texas and Minnesota."...

    With Texas dropping charges and claiming Ramsey County needs to prosecute, a spokesman with the Ramsey County Attorney issued a statement Friday that reads;

    "On April 16, 2015, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office (RCAO) deferred "any charging decisions concerning Ms. Welch related to the allegations made against her based on her conduct in Minnesota until such time as the pending case against her in Texas is resolved." Our office has not been formally notified nor have we received any documentation from the Tarrant's County District Attorney's Office regarding their dismissal of the 2014 indictment against Mary Welch. Until the RCAO formally receives notice and any updated information for the criminal review, we will not be able to make any charging decision in this case."

    So for now, the case remains in legal limbo.

    See comments above April 15, 2015 at 11:26 AM and May 27, 2015 at 3:37 PM