Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a mental health disorder
and form of child abuse in which a caregiver—usually a mother—claims or causes
an illness in another person, usually her child. The caregiver may directly
hurt the child to produce symptoms or may cause the child to undergo
unnecessary medical tests or treatments that are often painful and potentially
A caregiver may:
Falsely claim a child has experienced serious
symptoms, such as seizures, diarrhea, vomiting, or apnea.
Contaminate test results to make a child appear
Physically harm the child to produce symptoms.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy sometimes is triggered by a child
having a true illness from which the caregiver gains attention and
satisfaction. A caregiver sometimes victimizes more than one child but not at
the same time. A child who is a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy is at
increased risk for developing mental health problems and complications of
unnecessary medical treatment.
Diagnosis requires careful scrutiny and documentation by a team of
health professionals who will involve police, children's protective services,
and the courts. The caregiver is held legally accountable for his or her
actions and requires mental health counseling.
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.