In a shocking case of child abuse emerging from the Australian state of New South Wales, a 42-year-old woman, whose identity has not yet been revealed for legal reasons, has been charged with repeatedly poisoning her 9-year-old daughter with injections of urine.
The case first came to light in March this year when the daughter, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, was hospitalized with life-threatening renal failure. In the court papers, which have since been made accessible to Vice News, it was revealed that the young girl also suffered from acute rashes and skin-peeling at the time of her admission.
Though the doctors were familiar with the young girl because of her frequent visits to the hospital, this time they were about to notice something that would completely shock them. They found a combination of yeast and fungus growing in an intravenous line running to the girl’s jugular. The kid whom they had seen become the representative of children’s health charities in New South Wales at her tiny age was suffering from something far too traumatic, being exploited by her mother in a bizarre way.
According to the police, when the medical staff at the hospital agreed that the formation of yeast was impossible without tampering, they rang up the Newcastle Child Abuse Squad. After police intervened, syringes, laxatives, and urine samples were found in the mother’s handbag, to the utter horror of hospital authorities.
Subsequent investigation led police to a grim trail of evidence stretching back to 2008, whereby it was concluded that the woman had been injecting her own daughter with urine and feeding her laxatives since she was 3-years-old. It was later confirmed by doctors that the daughter had developed severe rashes on her skin and fallen prey to a serious problem of skin-peeling as a result of the laxative abuse she had suffered.
In what would perhaps come as an even bigger shock, the mother who has been charged by the police was a prolific health blogger and an ambassador for a number of health charities operating in Australia. Due to her reputation in the field, her daughter was picked to perform at a fundraising event for a major children’s charity at the Sydney Opera House recently. In one of her blog entries, which has since been removed, the mother mentioned her desperation at not being able to treat her daughter.
“I wanted him [the doctor] to treat her. Do something. Anything. She was in pain and I could see she was becoming unwell. I love my daughter’s medical team. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with the decisions they made.”
But the police allege that the mother was never interested in the welfare of the child. Instead, they believe that the mother suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), the name given to a factitious disorder where a mother hurts her children to garner attention. An adult diagnosed with MSBP could attempt to make a child appear mentally or physically ill or impaired by either fabricating symptoms or actually causing harm to the child, in order to gain the attention of medical providers and others. According to Psychiatry Online, it is the most dangerous form of abuse, with a mortality rate stretching to 10 percent in certain countries. The name comes from an 18th-century German officer Baron von Munchausen, who was known for telling captivating yet unlikely stories. In recent times, however, doctors have desisted from using the nomenclature, preferring to use the rather long phrase “factitious disorder imposed by another.”
Though the police have already pressed charges, not everyone believes that the mother is responsible. According to her friend Karen, the accused woman is far too sensitive to perform such heinous crimes. In an interview she granted ABC Australia, she said she was horrified when she heard about her friend’s arrest for the first time.
“My first reaction when I heard that the police were involved in my friend’s case, I was horrified, I couldn’t believe it at all. She’s the last person I would expect to ever, ever do anything to any of her children.”
While it is still not clear if the mother is responsible for perpetrating the crimes, there have been cases in the recent past where mothers suffering from MSBP have been responsible for threatening their children’s life by feeding them various drugs. Only last year, a 22-year-old Queensland woman received a two-year jail sentence after feeding her daughter chemo drugs that she had bought online. The 4-year-old experienced significant health effects, including bone marrow failure. But this is the first time that a mother has been accused of injecting her daughter with urine.
According to doctors, MSBP has sometimes also tended to become a “default garbage bin” when police do not want to investigate a case any further. In a number of cases, senior doctors testify and the allegations against mothers have proved false. The mother’s friend reckons that could be a possibility.
“In a lot of cases of parents that are accused, there is another explanation and there are other sides to the story.”
The accused mother has been released on bail, despite concerns that she might tamper with witnesses or try to contact her daughter, who has recovered significantly since her mother’s arrest. The woman could face a jail sentence of 10 years if the allegations against her prove correct.
[Photo via Robert Cianflone / Getty Images]