Munchausen Mum Escapes Jail Term
By: Beth McHugh 2008
So what happens to a mother when she is found to be suffering from Munchausen by proxy? As we learned in the previous articles on this puzzling condition, Munchausen by proxy or its alternate title, Factitious Disorder by proxy, is a condition whereby the legal guardian, usually the mother, deliberately harms her child in order to draw attention to herself.
Such a mother usually presents herself as being very caring and loving towards her child. Because her child is so chronically ill, with a whole range of puzzling and perplexing sicknesses, and the mother is so devoted, she is often seen by friends and medical staff alike as being a “wonder mom”.
In this way, the mother attains the attention and admiration that she craves. Yet it is her who is making the child ill, usually via a bizarre range of means and methods. We talked about some of these in Munchausen by Proxy and Munchausen by Proxy: A Special Kind of Child Abuse.
In a recent case that occurred in NSW, Australia, a mother escaped a jail term for deliberately injuring her child because she was found to be suffering from Munchausen by proxy. She was found to have injected excrement-contaminated water into her six month old son by means of a hypodermic needle. This resulted in multiple trips to hospital, where the mother was noted to be extremely devoted and concerned for her infant child. However, attentive staff discovered that the mother herself was causing the child's repeated illnesses.
The sentencing judge noted that the offence was serious and that it was only a matter of luck that the mother didn't cause the child permanent damage or death. A psychiatrist who was called in to investigate the case claimed that the mother probably suffered from factitious disease, or its more common title of Munchausen by proxy.
The woman was found to have deliberately injected the contaminated substance into the boy's drip line while he was admitted to hospital for a minor injury. These are the typical scenarios under which sufferers of this disorder are discovered. The condition can go on undetected for years, particularly if the mother does not seek outside medical help for her child. But the need for admiration and attention drives such a mother to take the child to hospital where a wider audience is available to praise her. Fortunately many cases are picked up by medical staff, but sometimes the behavior of the mother does go undetected and the child unfortunately dies.
The woman in the above case escaped a jail term but will hopefully
be rehabilitated through counseling which addresses her desperate need
for love and admiration.