The term Munchausen Syndrome was first developed in 1951 by the British physician, Richard Asher. Named for Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German officer known for embellishing the stories of his life and experiences, the term describes a psychological disorder in which a patient either invents or causes an illness or disease. Usually this is done to elicit sympathy or gain attention. In most cases, the symptoms are either falsified because they do not actually exist, or they are self-induced.
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
Another form of this psychological disorder, and perhaps the one that gains more media attention, is Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). This term was first coined in 1977 by Roy Meadow, a British pediatrician, to describe the psychological disorder wherein a caregiver (usually a parent, and more often the mother) intentionally produces or feigns symptoms of an illness in another person (thus, “by proxy”). In most instances, the other person is a child.
In MSBP, it is assumed that the caregiver is able to satisfy their own need for attention, pity and sympathy by their proximity to the ill child. By addressing the medical and resulting emotional needs of a sick or injured child, the caregiver receives the sympathy and attention they crave. Certain experts even believe that in addition to the attention gained from the child’s “illness”, the caregiver is also driven by the satisfaction of being able to deceive individuals whom they consider to be more important and powerful than themselves, like doctors.
Symptoms of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy
In instances where MSBP is the cause, the caregiver deliberately misleads others, usually the medical professionals involved, and may even go as far as to actually cause symptoms in the child. In these more extreme cases, this is achieved through poisoning, medication, physical injuries, and even suffocation.
Usually, when attempting to diagnose MSBP, medical professionals closely monitor the behaviors of the caregiver as well as the welfare of the child. A parent who is unconcerned by or eager for additional testing or hospital stays and shows an avid interest in the medical details of their child’s case are often assumed to be possible MSBP sufferers.
Additionally, a child with one or more medical problems that don’t respond to treatment, or that follow an unexplained course without signs of healing are frequently thought to be possible indications of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Unusual lab results, symptoms that flare up in the hospital following visits from parents, and unusual collections of symptoms that don’t normally present together are also often cause for concern in children.
Child Abuse & Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
Although Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is actually very rare, doctors have been known to diagnose it when they are unable to find a viable medical reason for a child’s illness. In fact, here in Michigan, MSBP findings are becoming more common in CPS proceedings where the child’s illness is proving difficult to diagnose or treat, as it provides the prosecution with a handy accusation that is difficult to disprove.
This is a tragedy. Loving, concerned parents are then labeled as abusers simply because medical staff cannot diagnose their child’s illness. Caregivers who have done nothing wrong are suddenly faced with child abuse and neglect charges for wanting nothing more than to get adequate medical treatment for their child.
It is a well known fact that there are a vast array of rare and hard to diagnose illnesses out there today. Scientists have identified more than 6,800 rare diseases worldwide to date, and the number grows every year. Mitochondrial myopathy, pediatric diffuse cutaneous mastocytosis and arthrogryposis multiplex congenita are examples of exactly that – diseases that are so rare and difficult to diagnose in children. And so it’s heartbreaking when loving parents are falsely accused of abuse for no reason other than a doctor’s inability to decipher a child’s mystifying symptoms.
Child Abuse Defense Attorneys
At Kronzek & Cronkright, our CPS defense attorneys have many years of experience assisting and defending parents accused of intentionally making their children sick. Being accused of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy can be devastating. It could mean the possibility of criminal charges, termination of your parental rights, and losing custody of your child or children. It is a terrifying time for a parent, which is why you need the best help available.
We believe in parents. We believe in families. And we believe in your right to care for your children in the best way you can, without lies and interference from state agencies. The lawyers at Kronzek & Cronkright have worked hard over the years to earn our reputations as successful child abuse defense attorneys. We have had a great many successful cases during the course of our practice, fighting and winning against the false accusations made by CPS.
If you or a loved one are facing child abuse charges as a result of a CPS investigation, or have been falsely accused of trying to make your own child sick for attention, call us immediately. You have no time to waste. Your future, and your child’s future, are at stake. Don’t wait.
Contact our Michigan child abuse defense lawyers regarding your Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy allegations.