SEASON 03 | EPISODE 07
The Believers Part 2
As the Kowalski v Johns Hopkins All Childrens trial barrels forward, new information comes to light each day about what really happened to Maya Kowalski during her time in the hospital. In part 2 of The Believers, Andrea digs into the testimony from the doctors at the center of the case and finds medical professionals at odds. Did Maya really have CRPS or was something else going on? With trial watchers choosing sides and digging in: what does the evidence actually tell us?
Andrea also talks more about her conversation with Laura Richards and her co-host Jim Clemente, following up on some of the leads they presented.
NOTE: It came up in court on 11/1 in the rebuttal that Dr. Chopra did NOT attend Harvard Medical School, but rather an institution in India affiliated with HMS. He also clarified that he is a clinical assistant professor at Brown rather than a full professor.
Host Andrea Dunlop:
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For information and resources:
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children’s MBP Practice Guidelines can be downloaded here.
More about Dr. Marc Feldman:
Read about Dr. Chopra’s beliefs about medical child abuse here: https://painri.com/epidemic-child-abuse-doctors-harming-children/
[00:00:00] Nobody Should Believe Me is a production of Larj Media. That’s L A R J Media.
Before we begin, a quick warning that in this show we discuss child abuse and this content may be difficult for some listeners. If you or anyone you know is a victim or survivor of medical child abuse, please go to munchausensupport. com to connect with professionals who can help.
People believe their eyes.
That’s something that actually is so central to this whole issue and to people that experience this is that we do believe the people that we love when they’re telling us something. If you questioned everything that everyone told you, you couldn’t make it through your day.
I’m Andrea Dunlop and this is Nobody Should Believe Me.
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In last week’s episode, we talked about the concept of changing your mind about something that you know you have really strong biases about and looking to make sure that you really are hearing out the other side of an issue. And we heard some of my conversation with a fellow crime podcaster, Laura Richards.
Today… We will dig into testimony that we’ve heard from some of the doctors that we mentioned and really get into some of these issues that came up in our conversation. And we will also hear some of the interview that I subsequently did with Laura for [00:02:00] her show, Real Crime Profile, along with her co host, Jim Clemente.
So, needless to say, after this conversation with Laura, I had my interview with her and her co host Jim Clemente a couple days later, and I was ready for a sparring match. And I definitely got one. Here are some clips from that interview. It is not how a proper investigation is conducted. And so you, you get all sorts of ancillary problems from that.
But she clearly had already said to him, when he made those two statements, she clearly had already said to him, either you’re going to be against us. Or with us, you’re either going, well, that’s not, that’s not how she phrased it though, Jim. And that is important, right? Because she said either you’re protective or you are enabling.
And I mean, that is important to get to the bottom of, right? When you’re, when you’re interviewing a parent who you think is not the offender but’s, you wanna know, are you gonna be a safe place for your child? Right? But she’s defining protective as including condemning the wife. [00:03:00] And that’s the problem. I, I don’t think so.
I mean, what was the, well, no, no, Jim, I’m just wondering what the wording was because that isn’t, I, you know, we may just be reading it differently. There were some rather uncomfortable social media shenanigans that followed this interview, and I will get to that a bit later in the episode, but honestly, I really enjoyed this conversation.
Knowing what I was headed in for and knowing that I probably wasn’t going to move either of them on the topic, I was ready to be challenged. And I, they did. And I felt like I made my points and I appreciated getting to talk to their listenership. And that was all just felt like very fair play, honestly.
All that I might have disagreed with Laura Richards and Jim Clemente about, they did bring up some really good points. And I have had my eye on these as I’ve been researching this case. One thing that has been top of mind for me, and I know also for My producer, Tina, um, throughout a lot of our reporting on this [00:04:00] topic is how the healthcare system is really awful to women.
And I found this to be in a higher level, a really good point. I mean, medical misogyny is real. It’s a well documented phenomenon. But I think in terms of this case, certainly believable that the doctors were put off by Beata. You know, there’s lots of reports not just from the all children’s hospitalization, but from another clinic where she was actually asked to leave because she was swearing and being abusive with the staff.
Um, certainly believable that they were put off by her, but this was not the reason that they separated Maya and Beata. As we’ve discussed at length, they had. Many reasons to believe that there was a high risk of abuse in this case. And something that I found really interesting listening to, you know, we’re getting into the defendant’s side of the case of the trial that’s happening now.
It is the 19th of October when we are recording this. And a couple of doctors and nurses have testified. And, What [00:05:00] they’ve said is that if they went around reporting every parent that rubbed them the wrong way, they’d overwhelm the system in five minutes. You know, these are trained professionals and they know that parents are not at their best under these circumstances.
They know they’re stressed. They have a lot of pretty unpleasant interactions with parents sometimes and I just, I really cannot emphasize enough how meritless this idea that doctors snatched Maya away because they didn’t like Beata truly is, and if you think that’s hyperbole on my part, no, that is actually the argument that they’re making.
It’s just, it’s absurd. And given Laura’s comments about how Beata was potentially treated because of her behavior, it really struck me as a bit hypocritical the way that she went on to discuss Dr. Sally Smith. But unfortunately, the way that Dr. Sally Smith presents is quite offhand and clipped and devoid of [00:06:00] empathy.
And the way that… Do you mean just in the, in the clip from, are you talking about just the clip from the movie? So multiple interviews that I’ve seen, but in the documentary, the framing of her… I did write that she seemed to be offhand and lack empathy and compassion, okay, so when you’re dealing with children and child abuse you need to have empathy and compassion and be able to have rapport with those children when you interview them to find out what’s really going on.
She’s giving Beata all the benefit of the doubt and all the leeway for her behavior in the hospital, which according to the reports of people that were there was pretty outrageous. And yet at the same time she’s making a judgment based on some clips of interviews with Dr. Sally Smith that she lacks empathy and compassion and that she doesn’t have the [00:07:00] necessary amount of that to do her job and that seems really unfair.
So, another one of the most solid points that I felt like the Real Crime Profile folks made was that there were doctors involved in this case, some of them
treating physicians, who clearly thought that the Kowalskis were being wrongly suspected of abuse and that they were only pursuing what they felt like was the best course of treatment for their daughter.
So here’s Laura talking about that in my interview with her. And I mean that in the sense of, if there’s no evidence of Beata accessing Maya and the symptoms don’t dissipate, if they don’t believe Maya’s doing it to herself, then there has to be a reason why these things are happening, and they’re treating her for CRPS.
And the judge, after Beata had taken her own life, then… made a determination that she should be referred to another specialist for a full assessment and that specialist was Professor Pradeep Chopra from Brown [00:08:00] Medical School University who is an expert in CRPS and I believe from him assessing Maya from An in person assessment.
He made the determination and diagnosed Maya with CRPS. So then you’ve got two experts independently diagnosing her, from evaluating her and assessing her in person with CRPS. To clarify here, Dr. Kirkpatrick is not an independent expert. He was a previous treating physician of Maya’s. Dr. Chopra is also not an independent expert.
He was hired by the Kowalskis. Though I can forgive Laura for this, because the film certainly presents him as though he was some independent tie breaking expert. So we’ve already talked about Dr. Kirkpatrick at some length this season, and even previous to this trial, we’d heard from him quite a bit. We had, you know, depots from him, we had his comments on the Netflix film, he was the only [00:09:00] doctor that appeared in the film.
But he actually did take the stand last week, and there were a couple of absolute bombshells that came up during his cross examination. First of all, we knew already that the Kowalskis had seen at least a handful of doctors on their way to see Dr. Kirkpatrick. That was in the film. So here again is Jack Kowalski from the Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya.
We went to doctor after doctor, one hospital to another, trying to get an answer. And as a nurse, Beata was very thorough. So she documented every doctor visit from the very beginning. But they just put their arms up in the air and said, there’s nothing we could do. We don’t know what it is. But what we didn’t know previous to this was exactly how many doctors they’d been to.
Here is the cross examination of Dr. [00:10:00] Kirkpatrick by the Johns Hopkins lead attorney and this clip is from the Law and Crime Network’s
coverage of the case. Were you aware at the time you made the diagnosis of CRPS in this patient? Did you know that this patient had seen over three dozen other physicians about her pain and condition?
I don’t know the exact number. You knew it was a good many, didn’t you? Yes, sir. Did you talk to any one of them? Hmm.
Well, I don’t have, I don’t remember the list. I mean, so I don’t recall that. I don’t recall talking to them. You had a patient in front of you who… Dozens, literally dozens of other doctors had seen and treated at length and you were the first one making a diagnosis of CRPS, correct? Correct. Dr. Kirkpatrick is, [00:11:00] in his own estimation, an expert in CRPS, and he certainly has devoted his career to it, but he’s a little lacking in some other credentials.
Here he is during that same cross examination, and this again is from the Law and Crime Network. You’re not board certified? No. You’re not board certified in either anesthesiology or pediatrics? Correct. You’ve never been board certified in anything? Correct. Okay. Thank you. One of the things that I’ve tried really hard to keep an open mind about throughout researching this case was To the question of why Beata might have been pursuing such extreme treatments for her daughter.
Was this an anxious mom who got advice from a doctor who, you know, is a little overzealous, who obviously is very fixated on this rare condition that he’s dedicated his career to? Or was there actual deception on Beata’s part? And this question was put to rest during Dr. Kirkpatrick’s testimony. Again, this [00:12:00] comes to us from Law and Crime Network’s coverage of the case.
Incidentally, you were the first one to diagnose CRPS. Yes, sir. On September 23rd, 2015. Yes,
sir. How do you suppose it was that the mother thought that was the current diagnosis a week before? On September 16th, 2015. Before she saw me on the 23rd of September? Yes, sir. I, I, I’m not aware of that. To explain what’s happening during this moment. In the trial, there was an exhibit that was shown while this part of the cross-examination was happening, and that exhibit contained notes from a Dr.
Kreisman, who was a pulmonologist, who was seeing Maya, and in his notes for a visit that happened a week before Dr. Kirkpatrick diagnosed Maya with [00:13:00] CRPS. It reports. That Maya has CRPS, and so the conclusions that
the council drew from this, and really the only conclusion you can draw from it, is that Beata reported that history to Dr.
Kreisman. And honestly, Dr. Kirkpatrick seemed just as shocked by this as I was. Another interesting thing that came up in Dr. Kirkpatrick’s testimony was something that has really been a theme in this case. Dr. Kirkpatrick, who’s one of the biggest advocates for this notion that Maya has CRPS and the idea that Beata did nothing wrong, even in his notes indicates that Maya was not responding well to the ketamine treatments, and Mr.
Hunter asked him about that. This audio, again, is from Law and Crime Network. In this report, you indicated that the CRPS she had was intractable, correct? Correct. And it had proven refractory to your first pair, correct? [00:14:00] Yeah, very, very, very poor response. Given this information, it appears the most likely scenario is that CRPS was not the diagnosis Beata ended up with, correct?
But the one she was looking for. I just don’t… see any other plausible explanation for this series of events than that. And I have to say, and this is a bit of editorializing on my part, but Dr. Kirkpatrick, he just wasn’t terribly convincing on the stand. I just got the overall impression from him that he didn’t feel like he needed to back up what he was saying.
And this has been a marked contrast, I will say, to the other doctors, including those who testified for the plaintiff. It has been a marked contrast because Usually doctors are, you know, they’re people who are fact based, they want to refer to their notes, they want to have their facts straight.
Okay, so what about one of the other doctors that came up in this [00:15:00] case whose evaluation of Maja Kowalski appears to have played a big role, and that was Dr. Pradeep Chopra. Here’s a clip of Laura Richards and Jim Clemente talking about him on Real Crime Profile. Well he was the expert the judge referred Maya to after she was released from the hospital and that was my question why wasn’t there other experts brought in to diagnose her but he did as one of the leading experts diagnosed her with CRPS.
We did not have a previous deposition available to us from Dr. Chopra, so I was especially curious to hear from him. Dr. Chopra has incredible credentials, he’s affiliated with Brown, he went to Harvard, um, and he has a really impressive background. Here he is in his testimony. And again, this is from the Law and Crime Network’s coverage of the case.
I understand that you have won several awards, uh, over the course of your career for humanitarianism [00:16:00] involved in medicine. Can you tell the jury about that? Um, yes. Um, there’s a bunch of awards that I’ve won, actually. I can see why this man’s patients and the parents who deal with him love him. Even if I don’t agree with a lot of what he has to say, you know, he seems like a nice guy.
He was on the stand for many hours, but there was one moment that just really struck me. Here is the lead attorney for the Kowalskis, Gregory Anderson, in his direct examination of Dr. Chopra. And this is from Law and Crime Network’s coverage of the case. Was Munchausen by proxy assigned by Dr. Deese with Johns Hopkins?
Yes. And did Maya have Munchausen, or did Beata have Munchausen by proxy? No. Again, the question at hand was not does Beata have a psychological [00:17:00] disorder, although the plaintiff has very much tried to frame it that way. The question at hand in this investigation that was happening at the time of Beata’s death was did she commit.
Medical child abuse. Nonetheless, Dr. Chopra’s certainty on this, on what he’s being asked here, was very out of place. By the time he ever met Maya Kowalski and examined her, Beata had already passed away, so he never even met Beata. And Dr. Chopra was tasked by the Kowalski team with evaluating Maya for CRPS, which, incidentally, he believes is way more common in children than others do.
Here he is talking about that during his testimony. This audio is from Law and Crime Network. CRPS is officially considered to be a rare condition. Officially. But in reality, the incidences are actually very high. By the way, I’m not offering any opinion on whether this is true or not, he may absolutely be right, [00:18:00] but it’s worth noting that he is an outlier in this belief.
So, Dr. Chopra didn’t do a full medical record review, and so this is what, you know, you have to do in these cases really to determine whether abuse has happened, is to look at all of the records that you can get your hands on and look for these patterns of deceptions, look for, you know, this pattern of abuse essentially.
We know that he hasn’t reviewed these records, so why was he so sure that Beata had not perpetrated abuse? Sure enough to say it, you know, under oath. So as it happens, Dr. Chopra has written several papers about how common it is
for parents of children with CRPS to be In his estimation, falsely accused of Munchausen by proxy.
And those writings are likely the reason he was sitting in this courtroom. This was another pretty stunning moment from his cross examination by [00:19:00] Ethan Shapiro, who is one of Johns Hopkins attorneys. This audio is from the Law and Crime Network. Were you aware that Beata Kowalski chose you? No, I had no idea.
First time you learned about that today. This is the first time I’m hearing this. Okay. What Mr. Shapiro is talking about here is that Beata had done research and there are emails to show that Dr. Chopra was the expert, that she had handpicked to evaluate Maya for whether she had CRPS or not. What I gather from Dr.
Chopra’s writings on this subject is that he doesn’t really think. that Munchausen by proxy or medical child abuse exists. There’s often a lot of couching with doctors who do this kind of expert testimony work that, oh, it’s so infinitesimally rare or it only happens in children under 10, which is what one of the lawyers said in his opening [00:20:00] arguments.
They’ll sort of give themselves a little bit of an out, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t think that they think this abuse exists or that it’s so rare that they do not need to be aware of it, that they do not need to look out for it. And again, we know that this was part of the plaintiff’s argument in this case.
They use motion that claimed that Munchausen by proxy is based on junk science. So, stands to reason that the experts they’re calling would share that belief.
Despite having evaluated Maya only once following Beata’s death, Dr. Chopra took the stand for an entire day. And the picture that he painted of Maya’s future was bleak. This audio is from his testimony, courtesy of Law and Crime Network’s coverage. And to your reasonable medical probability, is Maya going to have relapses from time to time of varying degrees and types?[00:21:00]
Yes, she’s, she is. Okay, let’s talk about the relapses for a second. This is not a joke. This is not, we’re not talking about, uh, relapse of a little headache. We are talking about severe, she, she lives at a baseline pain that you and I cannot even comprehend. Considering that Maya was there listening to all of this, it was hard to watch.
And having now watched the totality of the plaintiff’s arguments, other than their cross examination, there is this bizarre duality to what they’re saying. You know, on the one hand, they had Dr. Chopra testify for a whole day to demonstrate to the jury how serious and horrible CRPS is. So, in their estimation, this condition is serious enough to warrant all of these extreme treatments that she was getting in this time period before her Johns Hopkins admission.
And yet, at the same time, they’re saying that Maya was somehow on a good [00:22:00] trajectory, and that her interruption in treatment during the shelter care order, where she was not receiving ketamine, led to a decline and that that decline is responsible for any of her current and future suffering, not the CRPS itself.
And it’s just not true that Maya was doing well before her admission. One of Johns Hopkins attorneys, Ethan Shapiro, asked about a quality of life survey that Maya filled out right before she went in to Johns Hopkins in October of 2016. The survey that he’s referencing here is a quality of life survey.
It’s a 0 to 10, and 10 is doing all of your normal activities happily, socializing, going to work, volunteering, and a 0 is, in bed all day, can’t do anything, no functionality, feeling hopeless and helpless. Here is a clip of that conversation from the Law and Crime Network. Were you [00:23:00] aware that two days before Maya went to All Children’s, her function was zero according to the survey?
Were you aware of this? Right, and I suspected of it. A 10 year old child with excruciating pain everywhere. It’s going to be, you know, I don’t, she doesn’t see anything left in her life because she’s in excruciating pain all the time. A lot of what Dr. Chopra in his testimony was talking about was how horrible CRPS is and how Maya is sort of doomed by this condition.
So it doesn’t really make any sense, if she actually does have this condition, that The Johns Hopkins Hospital stay is somehow responsible for that pain, which is the claim that the plaintiffs are making. Ethan Shapiro, again the lawyer for Johns Hopkins, asked him about this, and this audio is from Law and Crime Network.
But certainly what you’re telling this jury, it sounds like, is based on her condition the day before all children’s, Maya was [00:24:00] going to be sick with crippling pain for a while, correct? She’s going to be sick with crippling
pain for most of her life. Right. Including through her hospitalization at All Children’s.
That’s what she thinks. Not because of what All Children’s did, because that’s her condition. Right. And she did not respond to the ketamine that was given to her two days before that and then she had abdominal pain. And that was the reason she went to All Children’s. The plaintiff is claiming that she legitimately has this horrible condition.
And… They’re saying she was on a good track with this ketamine, and the ketamine was what she was supposed to get, but even they are saying, and in their notes, the treating physician’s notes, and in Dr. Chopra’s read of them, that the ketamine wasn’t working, and the abdominal pain that she was admitted to Johns Hopkins for was likely because of the ketamine, so if it sounds like it doesn’t make sense, It’s because it doesn’t.[00:25:00]
So now, what about this affidavit from Dr. Wassner that the Real Crime Profile folks found to be such a definitive piece of information? Now, on his face, I can see why Dr. Wassner might be a compelling voice. You know, a child’s pediatrician often knows them and their family best in a world of really fractured medical care, right?
This is probably the person who sees your child the most. They… sprung this affidavit on me during the conversation as though I had somehow been deliberately ignoring it. Again, there is so much in the public record about this case and I was piecing my way through it. So I would have very much appreciated them sending They sent it to me in advance, as I sent them all the documents that I was going to reference in advance.
However, I’ve appreciated them bringing it to my attention because it is an important and interesting piece of this case. Here’s what I’ll say about the affidavit, [00:26:00] and we will put a link to it in our show notes so that you can have a look for yourself. So this was a lengthy affidavit. It was 11 pages long and just a couple of my takeaways from it.
Dr. Wassner’s been in pediatrics for a long time. He was seeing Maya, Kyle, and actually was treating Beata as well. And he mentions that he considers himself qualified to detect child abuse. He doesn’t have any specific training that he brings up in that area. And Reading what he said about Munchausen by proxy, factitious sordor imposed on another, just made me feel like he didn’t really have a grasp on it because he said it was usually for secondary gain.
And now I interpreted secondary gain to mean something like money or some other physical thing, which is actually malingering, not Munchausen by proxy, right? Munchausen by proxy has an intrinsic motivation of emotional gratification. I also found his comments about Maya and [00:27:00] Beata jarring, because he describes Maya as this really independent, forceful little girl and she was nine at the time that this was happening and just says that there’s no way that Beata could have given her these treatments if Maya was not on board with them and I am paraphrasing here a little bit but that was the gist of what he said and I found that to be so wrongheaded because no nine year old is directing their own medical treatment.
That’s not how pediatrics work. And it also felt like, well, what are you implying here? That she’s too independent to have been an abuse victim, so only weak children are abuse victims? And to be fair, that’s my sort of extrapolation from it. I just thought that was a very strange setup that he included.
And as to his gripe with the record review that happened and his criticism of Dr. Sally Smith, which he included and said he thought she mishandled the investigation, he, you know, just [00:28:00] kept saying that you have to have a thorough record review to determine abuse. By all accounts, she did an extremely thorough record review and they did get records from his office and someone from the hospital did talk to him.
He seems to be put off by the fact that Dr. Sally Smith did not call him for a phone conversation in particular, but I, I just don’t think that that means there wasn’t a thorough investigation. So we did hear from Dr. Wassner. He testified on behalf of the plaintiff and he said that he saw no indication of abuse happening between Beata and Maya.
Here is a clip of his testimony from the Law and Crime Networks coverage of this case. Did you ever see at any time any indications whatsoever that Beata Kowalski contained any signs, warning signs, troublesome indications? that would indicate that she might be in any way abusive to either of her children.
No. It’s worth noting here that, [00:29:00] well, of course, Dr. Wassner’s perspective is warranted. Just because he didn’t see any signs of abuse while they were in his office didn’t mean it wasn’t happening. It doesn’t somehow rule it out. And often, you know, as we know within these cases, The mothers do often appear extremely loving, extremely involved.
This is not something that you can tell from a single office visit. And although he was their primary care physician, Dr. Wassiner had seen Maya five times
before she was admitted to Johns Hopkins. And this is during a period where we now know saw dozens of doctors, so he didn’t spend a ton of time with her.
We know that during this period of time when Dr. Wassner was having these five visits with Maya, she was also seeing a lot of other doctors, including doctors from Lurie Children’s and doctors from Tampa General, who felt that her pain was not a result of something like CRPS, [00:30:00] but was because of something called conversion disorder.
And It would appear that Dr. Wassner did not agree with this diagnosis, and this is from Mr. Hunter’s cross examination of Dr. Wassner. This clip is from the Law and Crime Network’s coverage of the case. She was wheelchair bound, correct? Yes, sir. So she was unable to get out of a wheelchair, unable to function,
and the history was that the specialists at Tampa General and the specialists at Lurie’s were suspecting a conversion disorder. Correct? Yes, sir. Okay. You just didn’t think that fit? No, I did not think that fit. Okay. Well, they had seen the patient for a several week hospitalization[00:31:00]
and then that which was fought, which followed a several day hospitalization. They had done, well, let me just stop there. Did you pick up the phone at that point and talk to any of those doctors and ask, This is your diagnosis. I just don’t think it fits. Can we reconcile this? Did you do that? No, sir.
Throughout this case, on both sides, there has been a lot of questioning of these doctors of, well, did you call this other doctor and did you call this other specialist and did you check in and coordinate care? And most of the time the answer is no. And I don’t think that’s actually a criticism of any of these doctors.
In particular I think it is just a note about how fractured medical care has become and that is one of the things that enables [00:32:00] this abuse to happen because you have all these providers who are not necessarily talking to each other. So I do think this is something that is on the medical establishment’s radar and that there is an effort to sort of coordinate care but I think again this sort of like criticism of these doctors weren’t talking to these other doctors really cuts both ways.
So the plaintiff’s argument, again, is that the three months that Maya spent in Johns Hopkins where she was not receiving ketamine treatment for her CRPS set her back so much that it interrupted it. the good trajectory that she was on. I think the thing that speaks the most loudly for itself is the fact that none of the
providers can deny the fact that in this period following the Johns Hopkins stay, Maya was doing Better than before she went [00:33:00] in.
Not worse. Here is Mr. Hunter, in his cross examination of Dr. Wassner, talking about that. This audio is from Lawn Crime Network. The following fall, September
Okay. Was she improving? Yes, sir. I made the comment that she was doing markedly better. Able to get out of her wheelchair. Okay. What we know about Maya’s trajectory of her health from the time she was released from Johns Hopkins on, is that By all objective measures, it’s gotten better and better. What is clear from Dr.
Wassner’s records and just from really any other objective measure is that Maya’s health started to improve while she was at Johns Hopkins and [00:34:00] continued to improve once she was released. She has never taken ketamine since she got a little bit when she was coming off of it. in the ICU at the beginning of her Johns Hopkins stay, but she has never returned to this treatment regimen that she was on before going to Johns Hopkins.
So, it’s just very hard to see this argument that this was somehow worse for her. As to the rest of Dr. Wassner’s testimony, you know, there weren’t any real bombshells as there was in Dr. Kirkpatrick’s. Again, he’s just one out of dozens of doctors who saw Maya during this time. You know, he’s not an expert in CRPS and, again, I just feel like his grasp of medical child abuse is pretty tenuous and, unfortunately, that is not altogether rare in the profession.
And, you know, as I mentioned, Dr. Wassner had a total of five visits with Maya Kowalski prior to admission. Dr. Kirkpatrick saw her three times. Dr. Chopra has seen her one time. There is one of Maya’s [00:35:00] treating physicians who was on board with this ketamine treatment did see her quite a lot. Dr. Hanna. Dr.
Hanna had somewhere around 55 visits with Maya between January 2016 and her admission into Johns Hopkins in October of that same year. Which begs the question, where is Dr. Hanna? He’s given previous depositions, but he is not testifying on behalf of the plaintiff. I don’t know why. And I will let you know if I find out anything more about that.
But with regards to the rest of them, none of these doctors spent a significant amount of time with Maya. And those that did, the Tampa General staff that observed her for a month, the Johns Hopkins staff who’s with her for three, had very different things to say about Maya and her dynamic with Beata.
There are many people who so far have testified along these same lines, but I thought one of the most [00:36:00] clear and compelling testimonies that was given was from A very experienced nurse practitioner called Bonnie Rice, who worked for Tampa General at the time that Maya spent a month there in the summer of 2015, and she talked about her dynamic with Beata.
Here is audio of her testimony from the Law and Crime Network. It was the weirdest, one of the weirdest, um, mother daughter dyads I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not sure we helped this family, um, to get Maya back to her healthiest state. But it became pretty clear over the course of, of Everything that they would, um, it’s kind of like being in the middle of a tug of war.
They weren’t actively arguing with each other. As a matter of fact, they showed kind of indifference to each other. Um, but if mother would say, we need to get her back to her skating or swimming or whatever extracurricular activities, Maya would just look at [00:37:00] me, not her mother and say, I’m not going to be doing that.
You know, so there was this, like, battle of the wills. I’m not a psychologist. That’s why I talked to Dr. McCain so many times, because I didn’t know where to go next. And then, so, I, in one of her notes, it’s at TGH 42 to 47, um, it, it says, um, that, at one point in Nurse Hussey’s exam, uh, it was noted that Maya could stretch her legs and arms, and she appeared to do so at ease.
But later on in the examination, she wasn’t able to move her fingers to grip my hand and refused to use her arms and legs to evaluate range of motion and strength. Um, and I know that was obviously Nurse Hussey’s observation, but did you have any similar, um, interactions, um, similar to that with, with Maya?
So, honestly, the plaintiff at this point has rested their case and the defense [00:38:00] is teeing up pretty damning new details every day of this trial and, you know, we’re going to cover all of that. I have no idea how the jury is absorbing it all, but at this point, having read all of these previous documents and watched so much of the testimony from the plaintiff’s side, I’ve seen them make their case.
They’ve made their case. They’ve shared what they had to share. So again, I’ll return to the question, what would it have taken to change my mind? What could the plaintiffs have shown me that would have moved me on this? And one of the things would be to hear from an expert who both understands medical child abuse and importantly, believes that it’s real, testifying on why this was not a case of abuse.
Let’s talk about who the plaintiffs did have. The Munchausen by Proxy expert, That the Kowalskis [00:39:00] retained to do a record review, which again, we talked about that, that’s someone who’s looking at the records in, if not totality, looking at a whole bunch of the records. The person they had do this was Dr.
Eli Neuberger. Now, Dr. Neuberger is a familiar figure in the child abuse world. He always, without fail, appears on the side of the alleged accuser. Unlike, many of my expert colleagues from the committee, some of whom you’ve met, Bea Yorker, Dr. Mark Feldman, Dr. Mary Sanders, who have testified on both sides of this over the years.
Dr. Eli Neuberger, who, it’s my belief, not only doesn’t believe Munchausen by proxy exists, has been vocal on the fact that he doesn’t think that child abuse pediatrics should be a subspecialty, is the person who gave a deposition for the Kowalskis that was played in court. He did not appear in person to testify.
And since there’s been so much [00:40:00] talk… about Dr. Sally Smith and her financial incentives for snatching children to fill a DCF quota. Again, that’s not my hyperbole. I should point out that Dr. Neuberger billed 165, 000 to do this review. And they had a lot of people on the plaintiff’s side testifying about CRPS.
They had experts testifying about it. They had a mom of another child who has CRPS. And again, in the end, this is one of the things that I find to be One of the most grievous errors on the plaintiff’s side. One of their most wrong assumptions. It doesn’t actually matter if Maya has CRPS. I have to say, with everything I’ve heard, it seems unlikely.
There may be something else, some other chronic conditions she has, but the way that this diagnosis appears to have originated. is extremely suspicious, and I just don’t know how you argue otherwise at this point. So, that is not [00:41:00] relevant. So, someone convincing me that she has CRPS would not convince me, in fact, that there was not abuse in this case.
That is a sort of red herring. What is the other evidence that I might be presented with in absence of, frankly, a credible Munchausen by Proxy medical child abuse expert testifying on it? What else could I be presented with that would convince me that there was some merit to the plaintiff’s case in this?
I would need to see some evidence that the hospital, Dr. Sally Smith, or even the admittedly slightly dubious Kathy Beatty did anything wrong here or actually had some kind Beata. We’re going to get to a lot more about what’s happened in the trial so far in the next episode.
But where did we leave off with our friends at Real Crime Profile? Like I said, the conversation itself, good times. Thought it was fair, thought it was really interesting. The social media rollout of these [00:42:00] interviews took a little bit of a different tone, and quite frankly, went completely sideways. For one thing, they titled this two part episode, Why We Believe Maya, which I felt like was a little bit snarky, and sort of insinuated that I was you know, disregarding the evidence because of my bias.
But it was actually something that they said about my sister Megan’s case in their show notes that really got under my skin. Here is super producer Tina Knoll reading that part of their show notes. Finally in this episode, Andrea mentions the case of her sister Megan Carter, who was investigated for medical child abuse.
It is only fair that we supply the actual opinion of the court where the judge found no factual basis for child abuse by her sister Megan. Link to documentation. Andrea also mentions this NBC investigative reporter into her sister’s case and about the doctors [00:43:00] involved in Megan’s case. Here is that article, link to article.
Well, they mention two of the pieces about my sister’s case. They of course don’t mention here that I covered both of these pieces, the judge’s order and the NBC investigation. So basically they included these two links about my sister’s case without linking to the episode that I did on her case that explains all of the context around this.
Tina, what did you make of this move? It certainly wasn’t the premise by which you were invited on their show. No, I mean, I really felt like, you know, I came to these folks in good faith to have this discussion. I knew that we disagreed. And again, can’t emphasize enough, like I, I thought their conversation, we got a lot of feedback about that conversation, but I thought in the moment it felt to me like it was respectful.
It was lively. You know, I am a strong personality, both Jim and Laura are as well. And all that’s fine. Right. I think the setup of why we believe Maya, and we’re going to. talk a little bit more in [00:44:00] detail about like why that’s so problematic but I thought they were sort of setting me up as to say that I was calling her a liar which is by no means true.
I think, you know, a couple of the things that actually bother me, and I will say, like, by and large, people can say what they like on their own Instagram about me, like, you know, I’m not super sensitive about that. I don’t read a lot of comments for that reason, because I think, like, as this has been my position as an author for a long time, it’s my position as a podcaster.
You put your work out into the world. If there’s something that you really got wrong and you need to answer for, like, okay, you do that. But otherwise, I don’t go arguing with listeners about what they think of my work. If they tag me in something and say something directly to me, that’s fine. But… I did feel like one of the things that, that came up was like, oh, Lisa had said in a little addendum to the end of the first episode, she sent us a curated set of documents.
I was like, hey, hey man, like that, I sent you the documents I had. I’m in the process of getting this. You made it sound like I was cherry picking to try and like trick you or something. And also. They didn’t send me the affidavit they talked about, so I was like, why are you like setting it up like that, you know?
And [00:45:00] there were some comments that they made from their profile, again not sure who the actual person doing the typing was though, but that I was like, lobbing live grenades at this family, and that this Wassiner affidavit debunked everything that I said, and that’s just not. This is such a complex case, I thought that was kind of a disservice to their listeners, um, to be frank, from reading those comments, which again, not something I normally do, but did in this case because there was so much going on.
Um, I think a lot of their listeners, uh, felt that way too. And just to say, I did not, I, I am not Taylor Swift. I do not have an army of fans that I can send after some of these. I did not, I did not send people to do that, but I did get, you know, a lot of nice messages about this. I think the one thing for me that sort of crossed the line with this whole back and forth was in that second show notes, they posted the judge’s order and the NBC piece about Megan.
Both of which I addressed at length in that my episode about her and when we asked them to post the link to that in the show notes, they [00:46:00] eventually did post it on Facebook. Um, you know, they said, Oh, we couldn’t find one that
was not under a paywall. I mean, hundreds of thousands of other people managed to find the one that was not behind the paywall.
So that just struck me as a little disingenuous and I kind of felt like they were trying to set me up. Those show notes to me for the second part, I felt set me up. That I was lying about my sister. And of course, I took that personally. I mean, it’s my family you’re talking about. And I realize I’ve talked about my sister publicly.
I mentioned her in that episode. So I suppose it’s fair game. It just didn’t feel terribly in good faith, I guess. And of course, this brought Megan and Andy out of the woodwork and they got in touch with them. real crime profile on their Facebook when they posted about this happening said that they quote reaffirmed their innocence and you know intimated that they’re going to do an interview with them and if they do have a ball I’d be very interested to hear what Megan and Andy have to say.
I have been interested this whole time. So the the reason I’m bringing this up is not because I want to just like revisit this little like feud that [00:47:00] Instagram. Um, you know, it’s because I think This is something that I’ve seen as sort of a pattern in this case where people are sort of like taking sides in this weird way, and so they framed me in this interview as like my biases were so strong that I just sort of couldn’t see or accept the truth, right?
That was to me the overall interpretation of the way they framed the interview. Again, not the interview itself, which was a volley back and forth. And of course I have these biases on this topic, but they do too, and they started off actually in their coverage of the Maya case talking about theirs. So here is all three of the hosts, Laura, Lisa, and Jim, kind of talking about the various lenses that they see this case through.
I mean, for me, it was certainly quite triggering. My sister was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological disorder that people didn’t understand. And you can understand how people, when they don’t know what they’re dealing with, I mean, A, it’s very frightening [00:48:00] for a parent and for families. I am Lisa Zambetti.
I’m the casting director for CBS’s Criminal Minds, but more than anything else, I’m a mom and a mom of a child who was diagnosed with a fairly rare pediatric disease. And so the case that we’re going to talk about today hits me and I’m sure hits every parent who’s ever had a sick kid, especially hard.
It’s a terrifying case that we want you all to know about. And it was a real wake up call for me about what happened to this family. I have a nephew who is being treated right now in Germany, along with his mother, both for pain with a stem cell treatment that isn’t available in the United States. This is something that is, is helping them live their life.
He was told here in America that he had three months to live when he was six. He’s 26, and the only child to ever survive this, and that’s probably because my sister researched so much, was so adamant with doctors, forced her way. Into programs. Exactly [00:49:00] what Beata did in this case. At the end of the day, we’re all human.
We bring our own baggage to everything we’re looking at, but I think, like, you have to have the courage to look at the facts, even if they really make you uncomfortable, and I’m gonna do just that by covering a case that was, I believe, a false accusation of Munchausen by proxy, and that is something that makes me uncomfortable for the same reason that I think A lot of us feel really uncomfortable when there’s something like the Duke Lacrosse story, where it’s a false allegation of rape.
Because, of course, false allegations of rape happen. They’re not illustrative of the actual problem, which is underreporting of rape instances. I feel like that exact analogy sort of applies to this. But nonetheless, I’m going to cover it because I want to have an open mind and I want to explore when this goes wrong, what happens, and what can we learn from it.
So, listen, real crime profile You know, they cover a new case each week, so for them, I imagine, like, the stakes [00:50:00] of this conversation didn’t feel especially high, even though, as they said, they did have some kind of emotional investment in it. But in fact, they positioned themselves as being on Maya’s side, right?
That was really strong in the way they titled this episode of We Believe Maya. The implication there is that I don’t, that I am not on her side. But, honestly, especially given everything that we now know about this case, which to be fair to them, there’s more information, we are halfway through the trial, there’s a lot more information now than there was when I was talking to them available.
Now given all of that, in failing to consider what is the most likely outcome in this case, In my opinion, that Maya was a victim of abuse, they’re not supporting Maya, they’re erasing her, and they’re erasing thousands of others like her who are listening to this coverage. Because again, this site is trying to
say that this isn’t real, Beata didn’t do it [00:51:00] because it isn’t real, and no one does it.
This narrative, it puts children at risk. This whole situation, how If ever it ends up with the verdict, so much of the damage has already been done. This is going to scare doctors out of reporting of abuse. No question about it. And that is going to cost kids their lives. Those are the real stakes. So I think my question for them is…
And I wish I’d asked them of this. Do you believe that this abuse is real? Is that the place you’re coming from? Are you assuming Beata’s innocent because you don’t think that mothers do this? Because if I’d known that, I mean, that’s a totally different conversation. I feel like. I can talk to people who disagree with me about whether abuse happened in a certain case.
I can’t talk to people who don’t feel like this abuse is real. I can do my best to share with what I’ve learned, but I feel like if you’re coming from the perspective this abuse isn’t real, there isn’t [00:52:00] any evidence that’s going to convince you.
So we’ve discussed at length how complicated the term sort of false allegation of abuse is when it comes to medical child abuse, because of course you want doctors to report suspicions, etc. But we are going to talk about a case that Dr. Mark Feldman was involved in and he’s going to walk us through and we’re also going to talk to the mom involved in that case where he felt like the evidence did not support abuse and that separation happened anyway and it was really devastating for that family.
So it’s important for me to cover this case because I want people to know that I am approaching this. I do not assume every single case that is suspected is abuse, and also because I want people to feel seen, I guess, because I, I don’t take it lightly, the idea of separating a family. I, I don’t think that that’s something that should be taken lightly, and I understand how serious that [00:53:00] is and how devastating it is for a family, and it is devastating for a family, even if there is abuse happening.
I mean, these, the consequences of this are really real. So, you know, to start with the ideas we began this episode with, Megan Phelps Roper says that the process of engaging people who disagree with you begins with not assuming bad intent. And honestly, I didn’t. And I, I still don’t. I think that just like I do, Laura, Lisa, and Jim.
They bring their own lens, their own biases, their own baggage to this issue. On the next episode, we are going to dig into the Maya Kowalski trial that is happening right now. I have been covering this on the Patreon and on Apple subscriptions, so you may have been following it there. We are going to recap who we’ve heard from so far.
As I mentioned, the plaintiff has rested their case, the defense is up now, and [00:54:00] we are going to talk to a lawyer and jury consultant to get his perspective on the merits of this case and how things might play out. That’s next time on Nobody Should Believe Me.
Nobody Should Believe Me is a production of Larj Media.
Our senior producer is Tina Nole and our editor is Corine Kuehlthau.
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 01SistersWe meet accomplished novelist and loving mother Andrea Dunlop as she embarks on a journey to understand the series of events that tore her family apart. We learn that her older sister has been investigated twice...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 02Who is Hope?We delve deeper into the story of Hope Ybarra, a young mother whose family discovers she’s been faking her eight-year-long battle with terminal cancer and begins to suspect her own health isn’t all she’s...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 03What’s in the Water in Tarrant County Andrea speaks to Deanna Boyd, the crime reporter who broke the Hope Ybarra case and discovers that Hope's was one of many Munchausen By Proxy cases in Tarrant County that Deanna...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 04Nobody Would Believe MeAs we learn from Detective Mike Weber, the father in a Munchausen by Proxy case can be the most important ally--or the biggest obstacle--in protecting child victims from abuse. Andrea gets...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 05Nobody Would Believe Me (Part 2)As we learn from Detective Mike Weber, the father in a Munchausen by Proxy case can be the most important ally--or the biggest obstacle--in protecting child victims from abuse. In part...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 06The Blast ZoneAs Andrea contemplates what the future looks like for survivors of Munchausen by Proxy, she gets an unexpected message from two young women who’ve lived it. After appearing with Marc Feldman on a podcast,...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 07Can They Be Saved?Andrea delves deep into her questions around the psychopathology of Munchausen by Proxy perpetrators. Floored by the similarities in the many cases she’s researched: she talks to two of the world's...
Share this episodeSEASON 01 | EPISODE 08There's HopeAndrea has made an intense connection with Hope Ybarra's family, and asked experts, doctors, and the detective so many of her burning questions about Munchausen by Proxy. But she's become increasingly...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 01Blunt Force InstrumentMeet Andrea Dunlop, accomplished novelist and mother, as she embarks on a journey to understand the series of events that tore her family apart. In the first episode, we learn how Andrea first...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 02What Do We Do About Brittany?Heather Harris was one of many friends who was concerned about Brittany’s desperate need for attention for her daughter’s medical issues, and her inconsistent reports about Alyssa’s eating...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 03Where There's SmokeDetective Mike Weber dives into the digital rabbit hole of Brittany’s online activity and makes a discovery so shocking it turns his investigation on its head and reveals the depths of depravity...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 04All InIn this season of Nobody Should Believe Me, we've heard from Sheriff Bill and Laura Waybourn about their concern for Alyssa- who was a distant family member of theirs. Now, we take some time to get to know this...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 05TangledWe hear more about Alyssa’s turbulent journey to become a Waybourn, as the family fights through a system that doesn’t know how to deal with medical child abuse. The Waybourns face the daunting task of...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 06The TrialYears after being separated from her daughter Alyssa, the Brittany Phillips case finally heads to trial. Dawn Ferguson, the prosecutor on the case elucidates the challenges of convincing a jury that a mother...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 07MeganIn the wake of obtaining shocking public records about her sister’s case, host Andrea Dunlop decides to divulge the details of the second investigation into her sister, Megan Carter. Seated alongside Detective...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 08Only the BeginningIn the aftermath of Brittany Philips' conviction, Alyssa faces a daunting new reality: the path to recovery. The long-term physical and psychological effects of Munchausen by Proxy abuse cast a long...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 09Pandora's boxIn this gripping episode, we delve into the heart-wrenching account of Jordyn Hope, another survivor of medical child abuse. Taking a brief departure from Alyssa's story, we shine a spotlight on a far more...
Share this episodeSEASON 02 | EPISODE 10Everything Everything EverythingIn the finale of Season 2, we finally hear from the person at the center of our story: Alyssa Waybourn. Despite the immense challenges she has faced, Alyssa shines as a beacon of...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 01Special Report: Watching Take Care of Maya (re-release) Warning: This content includes references to suicide and child abuse. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call or text...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 02Shelter As the Maya Kowalski case heads to trial, we dig into the massive trove of documents about this case and begin to unpack what we know about what really happened during Maya Kowalski’s fateful stay at Johns...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 03In a HeartbeatIn our third episode, we look at a central piece of the story that was left unfinished at the time of Beata Kowalski’s death: the police investigation into her for medical child abuse. Along with...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 04RetaliationNote: This episode contains sensitive content related to child abuse and suicide. Listener discretion is advised. Beata Kowalski’s tragic death by suicide in January of 2016 is at the center of the $220...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 05The WomenIn the flattened version of the Maya Kowalski story that has dominated the headlines, Beata Kowalski is a mother who fell prey to age-old biases against women. This story attaches itself to the well-documented...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 06The Believers Part 1In today’s episode, Andrea seeks an outside perspective on the controversial Maya Kowalski case. Laura Richards, host of Crime Analyst and cohost of the Real Crime Profile podcast, joins Andrea to...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 08Trial of the CenturyWith a verdict in the case days away, host Andrea Dunlop unpacks some of what’s happened so far in the Kowalski v Johns Hopkins All Childrens trial with lawyer and trial consultant Jonathan Leach....
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 09The VerdictAndrea and special guest Bex (aka our Florida pediatrcian friend) process the shocking verdict in the Maya Kowalski trial. After 9 weeks of testimony, the jury awarded the Kowalski family nearly $300 million...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 10The Verdict Part 2Andrea checks in with lawyer and trial consultant Jonathan Leach hours after the Kowalski verdict comes down. They talk about the judge’s decision to disallow testimony from the defense on medical...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 11Star WitnessAs we continue to process the far-reaching implications of the shocking verdict in the Kowalski case, we take a closer look at Maya Kowalski’s testimony and what we know about her. She’s emerged as a...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 12System OverrideWith the jury's stunning $242 million verdict in favor of the Kowalski family, host Andrea Dunlop looks at why this case has struck such a nerve on both sides of the political spectrum. She examines why...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 13What Now?Just when we thought the endless saga of Kowalski v Johns Hopkins All Childrens was over...it turns out it might only be beginning. In this episode, lead attorney for the Johns Hopkins All Childrens defense...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 14Media CircusThis week Andrea examines how the harrowing and complex story of the Maya Kowalski case turned into a pop culture moment, and spread dangerous misinformation in the process. We continue our conversation...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 15The Trials of Dr. Sally Smith (Season Finale: Part 1)In an exclusive interview with Dr. Sally Smith, host Andrea Dunlop travels to Florida to speak to the embattled child abuse pediatrician about her life and work and...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 16Bad Press (Season Finale: Part 2)In the second part of our exclusive interview with Dr. Sally Smith, we discuss how the media coverage of her reached a fever pitch and turned her life and career upside down. We explore...
Share this episodeSEASON 03 | EPISODE 17Dangerous Women (Season Finale: Part 3)In the third and final installment of our exclusive interview with Dr. Sally Smith, she shares her side of what happened in the Maya Kowalski case, revealing how perilous Maya’s...