An all-party group of MPs and peers is next month to meet Beverley Hughes, the minister for children, to discuss concerns that the hunt for potentially abusive parents might be out of control.
The group says large numbers of parents are being wrongly suspected of Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a condition where people supposedly fabricate illnesses in their children to gain attention. It wants a review of government guidelines issued to social workers, police and teachers.
MSBP was first identified by Professor Sir Roy Meadow, a paediatrician who was struck off the medical register last year, and later reinstated on appeal, after widespread criticism of his work. He was a key prosecution witness in the cases of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings who were both jailed for killing their children. Their convictions were quashed, however, after Meadow’s theory that some cot deaths were actually murder was discredited.
Despite the government’s official view that MSBP, also known as fabricated or induced illness, occurs in only about one person in a million, up to 12,000 children a year are being taken into care for MSBP- related reasons, according to the report.
The 104-page report, drawn up by Consensus, a group of parents and professionals, says Department of Health guidelines on MSBP issued in 2002 are phrased in such a way as to trigger referrals of parents to social workers even without any evidence.
The guidelines state: “When a possible explanation for signs and symptoms is that they may be fabricated or induced by a carer, and as a consequence the child’s health or development is likely to be impaired, a referral should be made to social services.” Among the cases highlighted are:
Comment from Leslie –
Article may be three years old – but still pertains today especially in the case of Ashleigh Cave’s mother Cheryl who was accused of MSBP this week. Cheryl believes her daughter’s illness was caused by the Gardasil vaccine. Authorities are still not convinced.