Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Cassie - posted on 04/12/2011 ( 18 moms have responded )

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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.

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/...

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Sal - posted on 04/13/2011

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i am almost sure my mil suffers both msp and muchausen syndrom, she has been looking after sick elderly people since he husband got sick when she was about 30, then she got sick, then she looked after both her parents, and when ever she wants attention she would/will ring and say ohh poppy is on his last legs, nanny only has a day to live, the dr said the tumor is gone but the natrapath said it isn't, it is really sad, thinking the only way to get attention is if your sick but sadly people get so used to the over dramatics that it has the oppersite effect,

Charlie - posted on 04/12/2011

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It isnt deemed curable like a lot of mental illness just manageable .

[deleted account]

Yes, it's a psychiatric disorder. NO question on that. It's a disorder that causes them to hurt a child. Therefore they should have the children taken away where they can do no harm and the abusers should be put in a penal hospital.

18 Comments

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Jenn - posted on 04/14/2011

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I think that the mothers should have to serve time on top of therapy. Whether it be in a normal jail or a mental hospital or whatever. This does not only affect the life of the person with the disorder, it affects the life of innocent children, children who deserve to be taken care of.
Remember the case of Beverly Allit, the NICU nurse that killed like ten babies before she was finally caught, one of the infants she was actually godmother too because the parents were so grateful that she was there when the baby stopped breathing, not knowing that the whole time she was the cause of it. That is a sin and it is disgusting to me that someone could be capable of such a thing.

Stifler's - posted on 04/13/2011

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I also think my mother in law has a mild case of it when it comes to my son and her other grandkids. Whenever she is around them she always finds something dramatically wrong with one of them like *constipation* or an *ear infection* and does all these things to fix it and demands to see a doctor and makes comments about how I should be monitoring this and that more closely when my kid is absolutely fine when she isn't around.

Stifler's - posted on 04/13/2011

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They should definitely lose custody. No excuse is worth risking a child's life, *mental illness* or not.

April - posted on 04/13/2011

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Parents with this syndrome should not be the custodial parent. It's a child abuse and if continued for a long period of time, there is permanent injury and death involved .

Veronique - posted on 04/13/2011

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No question about it, they should have the child or children removed from there care. They are harming the child, there for it's child abuse.

Kate CP - posted on 04/12/2011

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This actually REALLY pisses me off but for a completely different reason.

I cannot tell you the number of times I've read articles about moms who kept going to specialist after specialist because they KNEW something was wrong with their kids only to be accused of having MSP. Because of this disorder parents who are going with their gut instincts trying to find out what's wrong with their kids are often cast aside.

I *know* it's a mental disorder and all but I can't help but be furious at those who have it. It's traumatizing for so many people on so many levels and it just pisses me off that women do this to their kids.

Johnny - posted on 04/12/2011

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I must agree with most of the posters here. It is a psychiatric illness that requires treatment. Just like any other psychiatric illness, if it makes the individual a threat to others, those people must be protected.

It would really depend on the case as to what level of protection the children need. I'd have to say that I suspect that they should be removed from the parent's care in almost all the cases. But visitation and such should be done depending on the circumstances.

This condition is horrendous for the children. When parents seek attention by causing or exacerbating painful ailments, the kids not only lose their health but their childhoods. I do think that this may be one of those issues that is often under-diagnosed. When you see mention of a child without a diagnosed illness who seems to suffer an inordinate amount of sickness and medical problems, I always sort of wonder.

Amber - posted on 04/12/2011

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I agree that it needs to be taken case by case based on the threat of harm to the child.
Those who actually cause physical harm to their children should be punished accordingly. This could be causing the illness or putting them through risky testing/treatment that they knew wasn't necessary.

Those who only exaggerate real illnesses, but didn't cause harm to the child should receive treatment and be monitored carefully in relation to their children. I would want the other parent to be responsible for the child's health care though.

Toni - posted on 04/12/2011

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@Cassie. I'd like to think that would happen and these kids would definitely not be ones that fell through the cracks. Society also needs to play its part. If they (generalisation) are seeing things that don't add up then for goodness sake, ask questions.

Charlie - posted on 04/12/2011

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There are varying degrees though some are most certainly deserving of jail time and some people HAVE been sentanced to serve time but I dont believe all cases should serve time .

It has to be taken case by case .

Cassie - posted on 04/12/2011

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That would be my worry too Toni. Although, I think people would be more aware to look out for issues to arise again. Plus, I think social workers would probably be a part of these childrens' lives for a very long time.

Toni - posted on 04/12/2011

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These people don't get help without treatment so I too think they should get time in a psychiatric hospital.
My worry though .... is this curable. If a person is released, gets her children back, does it start all over again?

Cassie - posted on 04/12/2011

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I honestly feel like the mother should have to serve time, whether it be in a psychiatric prison or regular prison. Her children count on her to take care of them and keep them safe. She is purposely harming and injuring them for her own selfish needs. Whether it is a medical condition or not, I believe there needs to be more than just therapy. Those children deserve justice..

Elfrieda - posted on 04/12/2011

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Separating parents and kids is always sad, but if mom is hurting the kids, she needs therapy and the kids need to be safe.
I can't imagine that. When my husband or child is sick, I actually feel ashamed that I'm not more sympathetic. I kind of feel resentful that I have to spend so much effort taking care of them, and why don't they just get better already!

Charlie - posted on 04/12/2011

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They should have their children taken away ( unless he father was unaware and can care for the children ) until they have proven they are stable and recieving psychiatric care they should then resume supervised visits with time increasing until they are deemed fit to parent .

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