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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Mother accused of poisoning child at Primary Children’s

By Jane Stringham

A 15-month-old girl was taken into state custody after police suspected her mother of trying to poison the child during and before her stay at Primary Children’s Medical Center.

The child was initially admitted to a Reno, Nevada hospital May 10 after her mother noticed she was losing weight and having trouble breathing.

The child’s declining health and suspicious needle marks found on the bed sheets in her hospital room prompted staff members to transfer the child to Primary Children’s on July 2, according to the police report.

The girl’s health appeared to improve during the first few days in Salt Lake City until the morning of July 9 — exactly one week after she had been admitted into the hospital — when she suffered a heart attack.

Doctors ran several tests in attempts to figure out how a child could undergo cardiac arrest, and what they found was “a shock,” said U Police Cpt. Lynn Mitchell.

According to the police report, the doctors discovered acetone in the child’s system, a chemical that had not been present in any phases of the child’s treatment throughout the week.

This led doctors to believe the girl had been poisoned, which Mitchell said is “not an unusual” occurrence. Similar cases appear often in Wyoming and Colorado, Mitchell said.

U Police launched an investigation into the instance July 12.

Detective Jack Fermanian, who is in charge of the investigation, said he suspected the mother to suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

The syndrome, not to be confused with hypochondria, is a disease in which parents or caregivers fabricate an illness or a disease in their children in an attempt to call attention to themselves.

Unlike hypochondria, however,those affected are aware that the illness is a fabrication.

Mitchell said Fermanian needs to investigate the likelihood of other causes in the case.

The state of Utah took the child into its custody around the same time the report was filed.

An investigation is currently underway.

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