Who Is Alisha Newman? New Details On The Nurse And Mom Who Faked Daughter’s Illness To Get Attention

Photo: Milwaukee County Jail
Who Is Alisha Newman? New Details On The Nurse And Mom Who Faked Daughter’s Illness To Get Attention
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Alisha Newman is a 34-year-old licensed nurse in Oklahoma suspected of fabricating medical issues for her 10-year-old daughter. She has been misleading doctors in six different states so that her daughter can continue to receive unneeded medical attention. How does this kind of thing happen, and what do we know about the case? Who is Alisha Newman?

1. She suffers from Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA)

Formerly, this was called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, which is a mental illness in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when that person is not really sick. It’s considered a form of abuse by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, though there are also many reported cases of adult victims, especially the disabled or elderly.

2. You’ve probably seen it in on TV before

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy appears in Gillian Flynn’s 2006 novel (and the HBO series), Sharp Objects, and Nicola Yoon’s 2015 novel, Everything, Everything. It’s also featured in episode 6 of the 2014 crime drama series True Detective, when detective Rustin Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) questions a woman about her actions regarding her child’s recent death in her care. It’s dealt with in the 2016 film The 9th Life of Louis Drax and the 1999 film The Sixth Sense.

Most notably, it’s the name of the fictitious band played by Zooey Deschanel and Von Iva in the 2008 film Yes Man:

3. The disorder isn’t motivated by any material benefit—just emotional support

People with FDIA struggle with an inner need for another to be seen as ill or injured in order to get the unique sympathy and special attention given to genuinely ill people and their families. Factitious disorders like this one are considered mental illnesses because they’re associated with severe emotional difficulties. Most often, it occurs with parents. It can be as serious as being willing to intentionally harm the dependent and vulnerable individual. In Newman’s case, for example, authorities say she needlessly had a pacemaker, feeding tube and IV port installed in her daughter.

Caretakers will use the many hospitalizations as a way to earn praise from others for their devotion to the individual’s well-being or develop a relationship with the health care provider. Frequently, they won’t leave the patient’s bedside, and if the symptoms go away in the hospital, they’re likely to return when the caretaker with FDIA is alone with the patient.

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4. When Newman’s daughter was admitted to a pediatric ICU unit at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on May 7, she looked extremely ill

According to the criminal complaint, the girl was diagnosed with severe shock, acute renal failure and organ and acidosis damage. Recent tests show that she suffered from a common gut bacteria, and that five weeks prior to that hospitalization she was hospitalized in Oklahoma for three weeks for Klebsiella sepsis and bacteremia.

5. In both November 2016 and October 2017, doctors tested the girl and ruled out muscular dystrophy and mitochondrial disease both times

Nonetheless, during this most recent hospitalization in Milwaukee, Alisha insisted that her daughter had been previously diagnosed with exactly these ailments, as well as dysautonomia, hypertension, hypotension, and severe dysmotility. The girl also had a pacemaker, a port to receive IV fluids, and feeding tube inserted in her, in addition to a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) at multiple hospitals.

The inconsistency raised a red flag, prompting doctors to do a full review of the girl’s medical records which showed a pattern of her mother giving false information in six different states: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

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6. Newman’s attorney claims these alleged criminal acts were unintentional.

She’s being charged with child abuse and neglect for having recklessly caused her daughter great bodily harm (these medical treatments only made the girl sicker). Her preliminary hearing is set for June 7th, and currently she’s being held on a $50,000 bond in the Milwaukee County Jail. In Newman’s initial court appearance on Tuesday, Milwaukee County Deputy District Attorney Matthew Torbenson said, “This is a case that, in essence, involves a continuing course of conduct and offense that has lasted the entirety of this child’s life.”

7. After the hearing, she was seen asking her husband for help

He was sitting in the gallery behind her. When the hearing was adjourned, she appeared to mouth the words, “Help me.” If you skip to 1:35 in the video, you can see the look of desperation on her face as she asks this of him. If she’s convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison, but I hope she gets the help she needs before that happens, because this disorder can be treated with proper psychotherapy, and the last thing our society needs is an orphaned child.

Leah Scher is an introverted extrovert finishing her degree at Brandeis University. She's an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writer's Workshop the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She's deeply influenced by Judaism and passionate about poetry, film, satire, astrology, spirituality, sexual health and pleasure, and fitness (particularly the art of flexibility). She's beginning to dabble with GarageBand and Reiki, so as soon as she figures out how those things work, she'll add those to her list of passions. She draws inspiration for her writing from writer/director Wes Anderson, and for her lifestyle from her grandmother. Lastly, she's always actively seeking two things: a job having anything at all to do with publishing, and a chance to meet Jesse Eisenberg.