Monday, April 8, 2024

Alternating hemiplegia of childhood and medical child abuse 2

A Seattle-area mother previously accused of medical child abuse and subsequently cleared of any and all wrongdoing is now taking the fight to her former accusers in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

Sophie Hartman, on behalf of herself and her two minor children, accuses the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and several other named defendants of battery, false imprisonment, fabrication of evidence, and other constitutional violations, according to the 71-page lawsuit obtained by Law&Crime.

“To defend against false medical accusations and a myriad of violations of professional standards, the Hartman family has spent millions of dollars on lawyers just to keep the family together and Sophie out of jail,” the complaint reads. “The actual harm to the family is vast and the spirit of subversion and hubris with which various defendants betrayed the Hartman family is shocking.”

In May 2021, Hartman was charged with one count of assault of a child in the second degree and one domestic violence count of attempted assault of a child in the second degree for taking her then-6-year-old daughter to upwards of 474 medical appointments since 2016.

Hartman pointed out that her daughter had been diagnosed with the rare neurological condition known as Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC) by doctors at Duke University Medical Center. In North Carolina, she had been treated by those doctors for some three years. The diagnosis only became a problem in Washington State.

“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,” defense attorneys Adam Shapiro and Jessica Goldman said in a statement after the arrest.

Even before that, however, at the insistence of doctors and nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the DCYF opened a dependency case against Hartman in an effort to remove her children from her custody.

“It failed,” the lawsuit notes — with a court determining, after a 49-day trial, that the hospital had been involved in child abuse-focused surveillance efforts of the Hartman family that were “deeply flawed.”

“The false abuse was painstakingly debunked by a trial,” the complaint notes. “The family presented in court the thoroughly-documented medical evidence including from world-leading physicians in the field of AHC. It was established that there had been no basis for the removal of C.H. or M.H. in the first place.”

After the course of an exhaustive and exhausting legal defense on two fronts, the Hartman family was basically broke, the lawsuit says.

“In total, the Hartman family has spent over $2,850,000 fighting the baseless allegations against them and ill-founded criminal charges brought at the urging of [Seattle Children’s Hospital] and DCYF,” the complaint reads. “The Hartmans’ financial loss during this process included posting a bond of $100,000 to keep Sophie from having to spend extensive time in jail after her arrest for charges of assault. The posting of the bond resulted in the placement of a lien on Sophie’s family’s home and a payment of significant funds to obtain the bond. To raise funds, the family incurred significant additional costs, including liquidation of retirement assets.”

At the same time, Sophie Hartman had been thoroughly maligned in the press and the resulting popular imagination, the lawsuit says.

From the filing, at length:

This led to the taking of the children in a police raid, the charging of Sophie criminally in a maximally humiliating way, various strangers rifling through Sophie’s private prayer journals and every personal confidence to sift devious motives from a loving mother’s agony at trying to help her suffering child, and extensive other Orwellian intrusions. Cherrypicked pages from those prayer journals were then used openly in court to attempt to paint a picture that she was an abusive mother. This led to a media frenzy that painted Sophie as an abusive mother who made up that her child was ill for attention. The media reported, for example, that Sophie “went on a PR tour for her sick, adopted African child” and that she, was a “white, Jesus-loving former missionary” who strapped her “little Black girl born in Zambia” into a wheelchair, among other outrageous and greatly humiliating statements about Sophie which were entirely false. This also led to death threats against Sophie, forcing her to flee from her home and hide in a hotel for safety.

“Numerous defendants contorted facts, manipulated and hid evidence, and outright lied, using extensive funds supplied by the State, the family’s very own medical insurance, and federal government funds to try to destroy the Hartman family,” the lawsuit goes on to allege — connecting some of the defendants to the “humiliating” media campaigns against the family.

Unable to continue paying attorneys and damage done in numerous ways, the state and the family agreed the felony charges against Sophie Hartman would be dismissed with prejudice and replaced with a lone misdemeanor charge — in exchange for a regime whereby others were allowed to control her daughter’s health for awhile.

The misdemeanor charge was subsequently dropped as well.

The mother gained medical decision-making control over her daughter in November 2023, the lawsuit notes. Before that, however, and as a result of the forced care regime where doctors “ignored” insight into ACH, Hartman’s daughter has suffered lasting harm.

“The Hartmans were the victims of a system of secrecy and unchecked authority without accountability, which led to the separation of the Hartman family based on false and outrageous claims of child abuse or neglect of C.H.,” the lawsuit reads. “For two years, several Defendants secretly set the family up based on wild and evidence-free allegations of abuse or neglect, and misused the family’s trust in medical professionals to forcibly remove the children from their mother Sophie’s care.”

Hartman is represented in her civil case by Seattle-based attorney Eliot M. Harris. The five-count lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court seeks more than $2.85 million in compensation, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees, and compensatory, consequential, exemplary, loss of consortium, and punitive damages.

“Seattle Children’s takes our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our patients seriously, but we cannot comment on this specific case due to pending litigation,” the hospital at the center of the controversy and litigation told Tacoma-based Fox affiliate KCPQ.

The lawsuit is adamant about the “very real” diagnosis that was, “for reasons that elude any logic,” spun by a handful of doctors, nurses, and law enforcement into the notion that Hartman had conjured up her daughter’s “symptoms for purposes of publicity and to sell books.”

“The Hartman family won,” the lawsuit reads. “The family was separated for 492 days, each member suffered great harm, and it cost millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees, costs, and negative tax consequences from premature asset liquidation to stave off the attack. After those 492 days, the family proved what had been clear to real experts and common sense all along — that there was no abuse and Sophie had given her all to protect her children.”


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