An Irritating Woman

Susan Diamond learned that it doesn't pay to annoy your kids' psychiatrists, even if you're a doctor

Her diagnosis of Daniel was generalized anxiety disorder, "with a very high level of chronic anxiety and agitation, many fears of near-phobic proportion, intense insecurity and emotional neediness, and at times, bizarre phobic and morbid fantasy production...He displayed frightening thoughts with violent content of various kinds, including human violence and natural disasters, all ending in death.

"He was quite clear...that he threatens suicide and other self-destructive action when he is angry and frustrated about his wishes being thwarted...He indicated that his parents are easy to manipulate with this kind of intense emotionality...[Daniel] is a seriously emotionally disturbed boy whose cognitive and behavioral functioning are quite disrupted by his underlying emotional distress."

Samson recommended psychotherapy with a child psychiatrist who could prescribe medication. "Daniel's parents should counseling together to explore the conflicts between them and any other family dynamics contributing to Daniel's difficulties."

A court-appointed psychiatrist believed that Dr. Susan Diamond was perpetrating a bizarre and controversial kind of deception called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Mark Graham
A court-appointed psychiatrist believed that Dr. Susan Diamond was perpetrating a bizarre and controversial kind of deception called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
"House manager" Michael Lamberti contended that Diamond encouraged her son to act up. Lamberti is now in prison on an unrelated fraud charge.
"House manager" Michael Lamberti contended that Diamond encouraged her son to act up. Lamberti is now in prison on an unrelated fraud charge.

San Soucie received the report in January 1999--apparently around the same time he learned that a company to which he'd loaned $1.3 million was in trouble, something he hid from Diamond.

Unwilling to go into counseling with his wife, several weeks later he filed for divorce. And the battle royal began.

Three bizarre events would lead to Diamond's losing her children. The first occurred in the summer of 1999.

Diamond told friends her husband had to be mentally ill to leave her and the kids; if he would just get treatment, he'd come to his senses and return. Her initial disbelief turned to immense anger when San Soucie refused all contact with her, rarely picking up his children for visitation.

Baby Mark was born in June. San Soucie was not present at the delivery.

Dr. Donald Lammers was appointed by a family court judge to do a psychological evaluation of each member of the family. Dr. Glen Pearson was appointed to evaluate and treat Daniel. They were the first in a raft of therapists.

Daniel's behavior got worse after his father left. Caregivers later described how he grabbed his sister around the throat and tried to choke her. He threw his little brother Justin onto the floor and sat on his chest. He'd pretend to kiss the baby and would try to bite him.

He seemed obsessed with death and knives. Stephen would later tell a psychiatrist that his younger brother had grabbed a knife, put it to his neck and threatened to kill himself--in separate incidents at each parent's house.

One night, Daniel grabbed a kitchen knife and chased a baby sitter around, prompting Stephen to lock himself and the baby in a bathroom.

Samson's report, along with Daniel's bizarre behavior and manic episodes, convinced Diamond that her son was bipolar, or manic-depressive. Pearson began seeing Daniel on May 24. At that first meeting, Diamond informed Pearson that a colleague didn't consider him an expert on bipolar disorders in children. Things went downhill from there.

Pearson found Diamond's reports of Daniel's bizarre actions "incredible." A 7-year-old running around with knives? And her own behavior made Pearson suspicious. Heavily pregnant, Diamond lay down on the couch in his office while Pearson talked to Daniel. She insisted that her soon-to-be ex-husband was bipolar, too. When he suggested that San Soucie be involved in Daniel's treatment, Diamond questioned whether he was the right person to evaluate Daniel. And Daniel's interaction with his mother seemed lacking in warmth and emotion--and vice versa.

In Diamond's defense, she was physically and emotionally exhausted, about to give birth to her fifth child.

San Soucie brought Daniel to his next appointment with Pearson. The father "stringently denied that [Daniel] had displayed any behavioral symptoms of agitation, sleep disturbance, mania, irritability, that would suggest the boy were bipolar." Daniel seemed warmer, more interactive with San Soucie.

The parents' accounts were opposite, but Pearson thought San Soucie more believable. Daniel seemed convinced that he was bipolar and his father was, too, and that as soon as Dad admitted it, he'd come home.

Pearson's opinion of Diamond didn't improve over the remaining visits. For one thing, she repeatedly canceled appointments. And Diamond, overwhelmed by Daniel's behavior, had taken him to a colleague at the medical school who prescribed Depakote, a mood-stabilizing drug she was familiar with from her own practice. San Soucie disapproved, but Pearson agreed to continue the medication, even though he was irritated that she claimed "medical emergencies" and contacted other physicians to consult about Daniel.

When Diamond's "house manager" Michael Lamberti brought Daniel to several later appointments, Pearson began hearing of other unusual behavior. Lamberti contended that Diamond encouraged her son to act up more to convince everyone that he had a bipolar disorder. Diamond says Lamberti was lying and had a record as a felon, which she had not yet discovered. (The Observer confirmed that Lamberti did have a conviction for theft and is now in prison on a fraud charge.)

At their final interview, Pearson informed Diamond that while Daniel needed therapy, he wasn't bipolar and didn't need Depakote. The psychiatric problem, Pearson told Diamond, was hers, not Daniel's. "Susan's behavior reflects a serious emotional disturbance in which she is consciously or unconsciously using allegations of Daniel's having a psychiatric disorder for purposes of her own," he wrote in an affidavit. Pearson reported Diamond to Child Protective Services for inappropriately medicating her child, refusing to follow competent recommendations for medical treatment and encouraging Daniel to misrepresent both facts and his own behaviors. "It is my recommendation that the children be placed with their father on an emergency basis until these issues can be addressed."

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