Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy An excellent article published by Express Newspapers
that needs to be read by all. Brought to my attention by a supporter of Portia.
Doctors' child abuse theory that is tearing families apart BY LUCY JOHNSTON AND JONATHAN
Scores of families are being torn apart by doctors using a highly controversial
psychiatric theory to diagnose child abuse by parents.
A growing number of children
are being taken into care after their parents are accused of Munchausen's by proxy
- creating illnesses or disorders in someone else to gain medical attention.
consultants in the field, Professor David Southall and Dr Martin Samuels, have recently
been suspended after allegations they falsely accused families.
Such is the concern
that a support group, Dare to Care, has been set up to help parents. It has assisted
50 families who say they were wrongly accused. All but six - who are still fighting
- have now been cleared.
Founder Penny Mellor said some parents are blamed for undiagnosed
illnesses in their offspring. Children can be taken away because they display problems
that could have been caused by other factors such as an adverse reaction to drugs
or routine vaccinations.
She said: "This is legalised kidnapping. It devastates the
lives of parents and the children it seeks to protect, who are often put into a loveless
and sometimes abusive care system that churns out dysfunctional adults." In one case
a mother was accused of breaking her child's bones. She later proved her son had
In another a four-year-old boy was put on the at-risk register
after the mother was accused of trying to suffocate him and burn his skin with corrosive.
She later proved his breathing problems and blisters were caused by a severe allergy
to foods and chemicals.
Some parents are accused of causing behavioural problems.
In one, a pregnant woman and her two hyperactive sons were locked in a psychiatric
unit and videoed 24 hours a day for four months at a cost of £100,000. The woman
later proved her sons had a severe form of autism and a neurological malfunction,
attention deficit disorder.
In a similar case two children aged 12 and 13 were taken
into care because of violent and unruly behaviour and now claim they are being physically
abused by care staff. A police investigation has been launched into the allegations.
phrase "Munchausen's by proxy" was coined in 1977 by Professor Roy Meadow. It was
popularised by Professor Southall in the Beverly Allitt case, in which a nurse was
jailed for killing four babies in her care and trying to murder nine others.
are said to fit a profile. However, some experts say many of the characteristics
of this could apply to non-abusing parents. They include showing an "unnatural" interest
in the child's health, trying to be a perfect mother and even denying they are abusers.
Once a case gets to court doctors only have to demonstrate that on the balance of
probabilities a parent is abusing a child.
Charles Pragnell, a social care consultant,
said that once accused, families stand little chance.