Smothered With Something That Looks Like Love, But Isn't: Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
By the time Cora was eight years old, she took six different medications everyday. She saw eleven different doctors to monitor her conditions. And she slept every night attached to a machine to monitor her breathing. But, when she was admitted to the hospital, doctors could not find anything wrong with her.
Cora was healthy, but she was an unfortunate victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy is named after Munchausen syndrome. This is a mental disorder where a person complains of fake symptoms or an illness to gain attention from the patient role (factitious disorder).
But, with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the perpetrator (usually a parent or caretaker) creates false medical problems in a child. The victims are usually preschool-age children who cannot speak up for themselves. It is a form of physical and/or emotional abuse. This disorder is dangerous because the child can be seriously injured or even killed. An overwhelming majority of perpetrators are mothers who lie, exaggerate, or even cause symptoms in their own child.
In one case, a mother gave her daughter a substance to cause asthma attacks. Other perpetrators have given medications that cause vomiting or seizures. These people may also willingly allow a child to undergo risky surgeries to treat false conditions. If confronted by a doctor, the perpetrators deny any wrongdoing. However, the child gets better when the perpetrator is not around.
Last reviewedJune 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.