Diagnosing Munchausen by Proxy
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy or MSBP is a diagnosis given to a mother or care giver to describe aspects of their behaviour. This behaviour usually includes subjecting what appears to be a previously healthy child to unnecessary and often painful tests or medical interventions i.e.: scans, x-rays and even surgical procedures to gain attention from the medical profession.
Many theories exist as to why a woman may fabricate illness in her child. Common to most theories is a traumatic loss earlier in the mother’s life; such a loss may be represented by maternal rejection and the lack of love and attention as an infant. It may also be representative of the “loss of a parent, loss of a parent’s love through neglect or abusive treatment, or loss of self through childhood illness or traumatic disillusionment” (Bach, 1991).
The problem appears to be that many professionals describe MSBP as different things. There have been debates all over the world on the subject. Some have said it is a mental illness and some say that it doesn’t exist, others question whether if it does, then can it even be called MSBP, as Munchausen by Proxy is after all, just a term, referring to a list of symptoms, named after a fictitious storybook character Baron Munchausen, who enjoyed a series of fanciful adventures.
Dr Marc Feldman, thought to be a leading expert on the subject, believes that it does exist and describes what he believes to be the behaviour of a person thought to have MSBP on his website.
“They deliberately mislead others into thinking they (or their children) have serious medical or psychological problems, often resulting in extraordinary numbers of medication trials, diagnostic tests, hospitalizations, and even surgery . . . that they know are not really needed. In short, factitious disorder, Munchausen syndrome, malingering, and Munchausen by proxy involve illness deception, or “disease forgery.”