Munchhausen by proxy. For those who have heard of this disorder, and are familiar with what it entails, just the words can dredge up feelings of horror and fear. This is primarily because it is a disorder that, while quite rare, has been popularized via sensationalist novels, movies and tv shows for many years now. From Gillian Flynn’s bestseller Sharp Objects to M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense, this frightening mental illness has become well known, if not widely misunderstood.
Before we go any further, it is important that we make one very critical distinction. Munchausen syndrome, also sometimes called Factitious Disorder, is not the same thing as Munchausen by Proxy disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Factitious disorder is a serious mental disorder in which someone deceives others by appearing sick, by purposely getting sick, or by self-injury. Factitious disorder symptoms can range from mild (slight exaggeration of symptoms) to severe (previously called Munchausen syndrome).”
Munchhausen by Proxy, however, is different in that it’s a relatively rare form of child abuse that involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. Although not a formal medical or psychiatric diagnosis, Munchausen by Proxy refers to ‘a parent or caregiver’s attempt to fabricate evidence of a child’s illness, or induce the symptoms in the child themselves.
Those who abuse via Munchausen Syndrome are often put into one of two classifications, where they are referred to either as “inducers” or “fabricators.” The term “Inducers” means those who directly cause the child’s illness, while “fabricators” are those who exaggerate their child’s symptoms in order to get medical attention and unnecessary treatments.
In Michigan, there have been cases where Child Protective Services has accused parents of Munchausen by Proxy syndrome simply because they have sought a different medical opinion after not agreeing with the first one. This commonly referred to as ‘pediatric condition falsification.’
In some cases, parents are certain that a diagnosis given to them for their child is incorrect, either because the doctor couldn’t be bothered to listen to all of their concerns, or because the doctor’s expertise has been questioned, and they commence practicing ‘defensive medicine.’ Defensive medicine refers to the practice of recommending a diagnostic test or medical treatment that is not necessarily the best option for the patient, but mainly serves to protect the physician against possible lawsuits.
Often, the hospital’s risk management attorneys are consulted for guidance in these cases. Every medical malpractice defense attorney knows that the best way to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit is to change the focus away from the child and the doctors, and to place it on the parents. Which is where allegations of Munchausen by Proxy come in.
When Munchausen by Proxy does happen, it is a tragedy that can cost a child their life. However, because this condition has been sensationalized in the media, it has also become as easy go-to accusation for CPS when a parent isn’t complying with their wishes in certain situations. This means that parents who are genuinely concerned for children’s medical care and well being, are painted as manipulative monsters in court.
At The Kronzek Firm, we understand how difficult this type of situation is for parents. If they are indeed suffering from a mental disorder, then they need compassion and psychiatric help. If they are being falsely accused of harming a child, then they are in need of an aggressive defense attorney that will fight to protect their parental rights. Either way, we are here to help you. Call our offices day or night at 866-346-5879. An attorney is standing by 24/7 to discuss your case.