Cassie - posted on 04/12/2011 ( 18 moms have responded )
What do you think should happen to parents (usually the mother) who suffer from this? Should they lose custody of their child? Should they be jailed for injury and illness against their child? Is therapy enough?
Here is information from the Cleveland Clinic:
What is Munchausen syndrome by proxy?
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP), a type of factitious disorder, 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 the person is not really sick. The adult perpetrator has MSP and directly produces or lies about illness in another person under his or her care, usually a child under 6 years of age. It is considered a form of abuse by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. However, cases have been reported of adult victims. (The term "by proxy" means "through a substitute.")
People with MSP have an inner need for the other person (often his or her child) to be seen as ill or injured. It is not done to achieve a concrete benefit, such as financial gain. People with MSP are even willing to have the child or patient undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill and their families. Factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (Text Revision DSMIV-TR), which is the standard reference book for recognized mental illnesses in the United States, organizes factitious disorders into four main types: those with mainly psychological symptoms; those with mainly physical symptoms; those with both physical and psychological symptoms; and those that do not match the conditions for the other three types. MSP falls into the fourth category. Fortunately, it is rare (2 out of 100,000 children).
MSP most often occurs with mothers—although it can occur with fathers—who intentionally harm or describe non-existent symptoms in their children to get the attention given to the family of someone who is sick. A person with MSP uses the many hospitalizations as a way to earn praise from others for her devotion to the child’s care, often using the sick child as a means for developing a relationship with the doctor or other health care provider. The adult with MSP often will not leave the bedside and will discuss in medical detail symptoms and care provided as evidence that he or she is a good caretaker. If the symptoms go away in the hospital, they are likely to return when the caretaker with MSP is alone with the child or elderly parent.
People with MSP might create or exaggerate the child’s symptoms in several ways. They might simply lie about symptoms, alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample), falsify medical records, or induce symptoms through various means, such as poisoning, suffocating, starving, and causing infection. The presenting problem may also be psychiatric or behavioral.
What are the symptoms of Munchausen syndrome by proxy?
Certain characteristics are common in a person with MSP:
* Often is a parent, usually a mother, but can be the adult child of an elderly patient
* Might be a health care professional
* Is very friendly and cooperative with the health care providers
* Appears quite concerned (some might seem overly concerned) about the child or designated patient
* Might also suffer from Munchausen syndrome (This is a related disorder in which the caregiver repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she has caused the symptoms.)
Other possible warning signs of MSP in children include the following:
* The child has a history of many hospitalizations, often with a strange set of symptoms.
* Worsening of the child’s symptoms generally is reported by the mother and is not witnessed by the hospital staff.
* The child’s reported condition and symptoms do not agree with the results of diagnostic tests.
* There might be more than one unusual illness or death of children in the family.
* The child’s condition improves in the hospital, but symptoms recur when the child returns home.
* Blood in lab samples might not match the blood of the child.
* There might be signs of chemicals in the child’s blood, stool, or urine.