A Washington state mother was charged last week with assault of a child after it was discovered that her daughter was receiving excessive medical treatment for unverified conditions.
Sophie Hartman of the Seattle suburb of Renton, Washington, who is white, adopted two Black children from Zambia where she worked as a missionary, according to court documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star. The children were removed from her home on March 17, 2021. One of Hartman’s daughters was held at a hospital, and doctors at the medical center informed authorities of the child’s “suspicious medical history.”
Hartman carried her 6-year-old daughter to an estimated 500 medical appointments over the span of about five years, according to charging documents filed on May 24. Doctors said that as a result, she has received an “unnecessary medical procedure,” as well as a surgically implanted feeding tube, with a cecostomy tube, to flush out the intestines. Though doctors advised against it, the young girl was also committed to a wheelchair and wore leg braces at least as early as 2016, court documents said.
In 2018, Make-a-Wish granted the child a wish. In a video sent to the foundation, Hartman explained that her daughter had Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC), a disease she said could cause her child 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. It’s really tough,” Hartman said in the video.
The 31-year-old mother also said that even the “best pediatric specialists” have no idea what to do, and that “…she needs access to oxygen because her breathing shallows and slows; she depends on her feeding tube when she’s unable to eat.”
Medical providers informed detectives that they did diagnose Hartman’s daughter with AHC, but only based on the symptom details that Hartman provided — symptoms that were only witnessed by her, according to search warrants.
A Seattle Children’s Hospital physician advised detectives that according to medical findings, it was likely that the child was not afflicted with the disease.
In 2019, “a group of (redacted) specialists and providers at Seattle Children’s Hospital” requested consultation of the Safe Child and Adolescent Network (SCAN) due to alarm concerning “a pattern of parental requests for increasingly invasive procedures based upon undocumented signs and symptoms reported by the parent,” read investigative reports.
A report warning of the risk to the child was “co-authored by four medical professionals of the child’s care team,” and was “reviewed and signed by the medical director for Seattle Children’s Hospital.”
“This situation is a case of medical child abuse … ” said 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.”
In February 2021, the report was sent to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The Renton Police Department was contacted, and commenced their investigation.
Detectives also discovered diary entries written by Hartman, in which she allegedly described several instances in which she lied about having various diseases, such as meningitis and mono, in her youth, said court documents. Detectives noted that in one entry Hartman allegedly transcribed, “when it comes to suffering, I am a compulsive liar/exaggerator.”
Hartman penned an account of her work in Africa in a book that she said initiated her decision to adopt, reported The Independent. She received a flurry of interest once she publicly revealed the youngest daughter was diagnosed with AHC, and A GoFundMe page was established for a wheelchair.
The child’s various procedures date back to 2016, according to court documents. They also revealed that Hartman allegedly searched for “cochlear implants Black child,” “how to get paid to take care of a member of the family with a disability,” “making a pretend model of hearing aid,” and “funeral songs” on her iPad and iPhone.
In March, the child was taken from the care of her mother and monitored for 16 days at a local hospital, according to investigators.
“At no point during her admission were there any findings or reported symptoms to support any of her prior diagnoses. All the available evidence obtained during the course of her admission suggests (redacted) is a health young 6-year-old,” said court documents. Within the two week stay at the hospital, the child was able to eat and drink on her own, run and walk without the use of any aids and “demonstrated no need for a wheelchair”
Hartman was charged with second-degree assault of a child and second-degree attempted assault of a child. The state requested her bail be at $100,000 based on the defendant’s likelihood to commit a violent offense and interview with the administration of justice.
Hartman’s attorneys released a statement asserting that the charges “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.”
In addition, they vouched for the legitimacy of the daughter’s illness, writing, “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 King County Prosecuting Attorney has the medical records from Duke as well as records from Seattle Children’s Hospital amply supporting the diagnosis and the consistent reports of Ms. Hartman,” the statement read.
“Sophie Hartman is the mother of a young child with a rare neurological condition diagnosed and treated by doctors at Duke University Medical Center. … Ms. Hartman is innocent of these charges.”
Representatives of the Make-A-Wish Foundation released a statement soon after news broke of the investigation. “We are deeply saddened and dismayed to learn about the alleged child abuse case involving one of our former wish families,” read a statement provided to Q13 FOX. “This is a very serious allegation and any threat to the well-being 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.”