Licensed nurse Alisha Newman, age 34, appeared in a Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday to hear the charges issued against her. As the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Newman faces one count of child abuse and one count of neglecting a child for allegedly faking her daughter’s illnesses and subjecting her to unnecessary, sometimes life-threatening medical procedures. Yet, it’s unclear whether Newman acted with intent to harm by intentionally misleading the doctors treating her daughter or if she’s suffering from a mental disorder.
Learn more about this shocking story and how a mother’s concerns ended up doing more harm than good.
The Allegations Against Alisha Newman
Newman faces two felony counts, one for child abuse and one for neglecting a child. Prosecutors allege that Newman made several false statements to her daughter’s doctors in several states throughout the Midwest. This forced her daughter to go through many unnecessary medical procedures, including installing a pacemaker, an IV port, and a feeding tube, all of which negatively affected her daughter’s health.
Newman reportedly told her daughter’s doctors at Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin that her daughter had been previously diagnosed with dysautonomia, muscular dystrophy, mitochondrial disease, hypertension, hypotension, and severe dysmotility: a surprising list of medical concerns and diagnoses for a 10-year-old girl. But, as it turns out, the doctors on staff found out that specialists had previously ruled out these conditions three years before, which means Newman was giving them false information.
Doctors were already suspicious when Newman’s daughter was admitted to the hospital for a serious bacterial infection twice in a matter of weeks. The doctors noted the girl’s skin looked pale and ashen. She was quickly admitted into the pediatric ICU where she was diagnosed with severe shock, acute renal failure, organ damage and acidosis.
Upon learning this information, the doctors contacted the local authorities and Newman was arrested.
Intentional Deceit or Mental Illness?
Despite the disturbing nature of these charges, Newman appears to have been genuinely concerned about her daughter. Doctors now believe Newman may be suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental health condition in which a caregiver intentionally causes illness to the person they’re caring for to win attention and sympathy from others.
Newman’s own defense attorney Martin Pruhs used this argument in court, stating, “These alleged criminal acts aren’t intentional, and I think that also speaks to whether she would continue to pose any potential danger to the alleged victim in this case.”
But, as a licensed nurse, Newman should have been familiar with the conditions she claimed her daughter was suffering from. Munchausen syndrome by proxy may have altered her thinking, or she intentionally misled doctors at various medical facilities at her daughter’s expense.
The Legal Implications of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
Child abuse cases involving Munchausen syndrome by proxy tend to be murky. According to the law, Munchausen syndrome by proxy cases are considered child abuse. Anyone convicted of Munchausen syndrome by proxy-related charges may face all the same legal implications as a person convicted of child abuse. These cases may result in a loss of custody, fines, probation and even prison time.
But some children do suffer from inexplicable illnesses and symptoms, making these kinds of cases difficult to prosecute. During these cases, prosecutors may review the child’s medical history and interview the caregiver’s friends and family members as witnesses.
Newman’s case is currently making its way through the court system. If convicted, Newman could face jail time and lose custody of her daughter. Stay tuned for more updates as this case continues to unfold.