While Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a rare occurrence (an estimated 1,000 of the 2.5 million cases of child abuse reported annually are related to MSP), it is an extremely serious form of child abuse that can become an issue during divorce. Learn to recognize the signs of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and what steps to take if you believe it is occurring.
What is Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy?
According to Cleveland Clinic, “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.”
A person with MSP uses the hospitalization as a means of earning praise or sympathy from others for dedication to their child’s care. They may create or exaggerate the child’s symptoms by:
- Lying about symptoms
- Altering diagnostic tests (adding blood to the child’s urine, heating up thermometers, etc.)
- Falsifying medical records
- Inducing symptoms by poisoning, suffocating, starving or causing infection
What are the signs in a mother?
- Most are mothers with small children
- The mother works in health care or knows a lot about medical care
- The mother is friendly and cooperative with the health care providers
- The mother seems very devoted to her child and very concerned
What are the signs in a child?
- The child has seen a lot of doctors and had numerous hospital stays
- The child exhibits strange symptoms that don’t fit any disease
- The child’s symptoms don’t match the test results
- The child’s symptoms are reported by the mother, but never seen by the health care professionals
- The symptoms improve in the hospital, but recur when the child goes home
What should you do if you suspect MSP?
If you think Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy may be occurring in your family or if you have been accused of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, it is extremely important to engage a lawyer who has experience with the issue. He or she can help you in consulting a forensic psychologist and other medical professionals for an assessment of your circumstance. They can also help you negotiate which child protective services and advise you when to get the police involved.
In this situation, your focus must be on protecting your child. This may mean a civil protection order to block contact between the child and the affected parent or supervised visitation while the affected parent undergoes therapy.
If you suspect Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is impacting your family, contact Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson or call 561-478-0312. Attorney Jamieson has extensive experience in the area of child abuse and can help you protect your child’s well being.