Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (Child Abuse in the Medical Setting)
Medicine Central™ is a quick-consult mobile and web resource that includes diagnosis, treatment, medications, and follow-up information on over 700 diseases and disorders, providing fast answers—anytime, anywhere. Explore these free sample topics:
-- The first section of this topic is shown below --
- Symptoms of illness in a child that are exaggerated, fabricated, or induced by a caretaker. There is usually no underlying health disorder in the child.
- Results in harm to the child victim through repeated interactions with the medical care system, including unnecessary tests, medications, and surgeries
- Known by many names, including the following:
- “Pediatric condition falsification”
- “Caregiver-fabricated illness”
- “Medical child abuse”
- “Factitious disorder by proxy”
- All refer to harm that befalls children through the actions of a caregiver in a medical setting.
- Symptoms decrease when the child is separated from the perpetrator.
- Rare, with no typical presentation. The most commonly described symptoms include apnea, seizures, factitious fevers, feeding and GI problems, failure to thrive, behavioral problems, bleeding, and sepsis.
- Presenting symptoms may present along a spectrum of severity from mild to fatal.
- Most victims are <4 years of age, but victims may often be older children.
- Males and females are equally represented.
- Symptoms may be present for years before factitious illness is considered and diagnosed.
- Morbidity is significant; cases may be fatal, especially those involving surreptitious administration of medications, poisoning, or inducing apnea.
- The parent, most commonly the mother, exaggerates, fabricates, or induces the illnesses.
- The term Munchausen syndrome by proxy refers to specific instances where the caregiver is motivated by a desire for self-aggrandizement. As such, it only defines a subset of factitious illnesses.
- Medical providers are advised to concentrate on the specific harm done and the patient’s safety rather than on the caregiver’s motives.