She has not seen her children for six years after being accused of putting poo in her sick son’s cannula. Now cleared of the charge, the woman speaks out.
She has not seen her children for six years after being accused of putting poo in her sick son’s cannula. Now cleared of the charge, the woman speaks out.

Mum cleared of injecting poo into her son tells her story

She lost access to her four children, her house, and her job, and had a mental breakdown.

But last week a Sydney mother was cleared of the accusation which destroyed her life - that she had tried to deliberately poison her sick son with faeces.

The woman, who cannot legally be named, was charged with "administering a noxious substance to endanger life".

She was claimed to have a controversial condition called Munchausen by Proxy, where a mother makes her child sick to seek attention. The condition has been renamed as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, but it has a dubious history.

This weekend, the mother will see her children for the first time since she was charged by police and escorted out of The Children's Hospital at Westmead at 9.30pm in October 2014, accused of putting poo in her son's cannula.

She was charged by police based on the opinion of one doctor after her son showed E. coli in his bloodstream.

The mother, who cannot be legally identified, lost access to her four children after being accused of harming her son. Picture: Tim Hunter
The mother, who cannot be legally identified, lost access to her four children after being accused of harming her son. Picture: Tim Hunter

In court, Professor David Isaacs, a senior paediatrician, said he had formed the opinion the bacteria was deliberately introduced into the boy's system. He said the mother suffered Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another.

Back in 2014, she was a nurse and a separated mother of four children aged six, seven, eight and nine.

She lived in Wentworth Falls with her parents. Her eldest son suffered terrible asthma and was on daily steroids to control it.

"Since he was four, the doctors said he needed to take steroids every day for his asthma," the woman told The Saturday Telegraph in an exclusive interview.

She says she had never been warned by doctors that if her son got a bug that made him vomit, he would not absorb the steroids and he could get very sick.

"In 2014, he did get a bug and he was complaining of headaches and blurred vision so I took him to the GP. My normal GP was on holidays and this was the first thing they used against me, that I took him to a GP who is not my normal GP, but she was on holidays, but that didn't matter," the woman said.

Professor David Isaacs. Picture: Kym Smith
Professor David Isaacs. Picture: Kym Smith

"The doctor said go home, there was nothing wrong. When we got home he collapsed and my dad picked him up and said drive him to hospital.

"We were in Wentworth Falls, so Katoomba Hospital was only four minutes away, and that was nail in my coffin number two because they said I should have called an ambulance, but last time I had called an ambulance, it took more than an hour, so I drove him."

Her son was seriously ill and flown to The Children's Hospital and admitted into intensive care. He had developed intracranial hypertension from the steroids that had been prescribed by doctors.

Over the course of six weeks in intensive care, the boy had three lumber punctures to drain fluid and he had to be weaned off the steroids. On occasion he became delusional, which is a known side effect of steroid withdrawal. He was also given morphine to help with withdrawals.

A number of nurses told the court they heard the sick boy ask his mother "why are you poisoning me?" and "what have you done to my cannula this time?" which the woman said was due to his delusional state.

"When nurses were giving him morphine he thought they were me and he was accusing me of poisoning him but he wasn't looking at me, he was looking at the nurse and I was nowhere near him in the room. One nurse admitted that was the truth and thank god he did."

The women will see her children for the first time in six years. Picture: Tim Hunter
The women will see her children for the first time in six years. Picture: Tim Hunter

The woman was then questioned by Professor David Isaacs, who is an expert in infectious diseases.

"Dr Isaacs came in and asked me what my job was, am I married, and then said (her son) has E. coli in his blood and then he left," she said.

"Two days later they came in at 8pm and took me into a room with police and searched me and searched my belongings and executed a search warrant on my house and they told me all my children were being assumed into care and that I had been accused of injecting poo into my son's cannula."

E. coli sepsis in hospitals is common. According to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare E. coli "is in fact the most common bacterial cause of potentially dangerous bloodstream infections".

In 2018, E. coli sepsis accounted for 4,106 of the 11,163 cases - 36 per cent - reported to the national health surveillance system.

The most obvious route is a lack of hand hygiene, mostly by hospital staff, but the mother was accused of a near impossible task.

"Dr Isaacs in his report wrote I had Factitious Disorder and that I was carrying around a pot of poo with me everywhere," the woman said.

"It was the most disgusting thing I'd heard and if you knew my son he had three cannulas in but he was terrifying of his cannulas being tampered with, you could not touch his cannulas. I said to police it was absurd, it was one man's crazy theory that I would do this to my child. "How are you supposed to inject poo into a cannula when he is in intensive care with a one-on-one nurse?"

“It’s like your children have died,” the mum said of having her four children taken from her. Picture: Tim Hunter
“It’s like your children have died,” the mum said of having her four children taken from her. Picture: Tim Hunter

Her protests did not matter. She was charged and escorted out of hospital without even saying goodbye to her boy.

"They dumped me on the street at night at 9.30. I wasn't allowed to see my children for six years. I lost my nurse registration because the police made a complaint to the registration board. I had to sell my house," she said.

The woman consequently had a mental breakdown in 2016 and spent eight months in a psychiatric ward.

"It is basically like your children have died, this abrupt withdrawal," she said through tears.

"I was their mother and I didn't get to see my youngest son's first day of kindy, my kid's first day of high school. All that has all gone. Heartbroken doesn't even describe it."

The woman's GP and preschool and school teachers all provided evidence that she was a great mother, but, she says, that was outweighed by the opinion of one doctor.

Paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow coined the term Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. Picture: Graeme Robertson/Getty
Paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow coined the term Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. Picture: Graeme Robertson/Getty

Her barrister Pauline David said she was "deeply troubled" by the case.

"They kept alluding to Factitious Disorder but it's just a made up idea. What is happening is so wrong and we know of others this has happened to," she said.

Prof Isaacs turned down an offer of interview but he said in court he had seen the condition before.

"If I get it wrong the child dies," he said.

"I have once in my life missed it and the child died and the mother told me afterwards what she had been doing with that child and I'm never going to miss it again if I can help it."

His accusations against the woman were referred to Family & Community Services and then police despite another pediatrician's opposition to his diagnosis.

Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, previously known as Munchausen by Proxy, is a condition coined by British paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow.

He was struck off the British Medical Register after appearing as an expert witness which wrongly led to three women being jailed for the murder of their children.

Munchausen by Proxy was described at the time as "one of the most pernicious and ill-founded theories to have gained currency in childcare and social services".

Fiona (not her real name) was reunited with her children in 2012 after wrongly being accused of Munchausen by Proxy.
Fiona (not her real name) was reunited with her children in 2012 after wrongly being accused of Munchausen by Proxy.

The accusation was also levelled at a NSW woman in 1993, who had four children taken from her and who took a total of 18 years to clear her name.

"My children were taken from me in a blink of an eye," Fiona (not her real name) told The Saturday Telegraph, adding she was dismayed the diagnosis was still being used.

"Once you have label, you can't get rid of it," she said.

The Wentworth Falls mum must still go to court to get equal access to her children. She feels their childhood has been taken from her.

"I want to make sure this does not happen to others," she said.

 

 

Originally published as Mum accused of injecting poo in her little boy


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