The Truth About Munchausen by Proxy
Gillian Flynn, the author of the hugely popular ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Dark Places’, has also penned the critically acclaimed book ‘Sharp Objects’. It’s a fantastic story about a woman who is forced to confront her own mother’s mental illness, and the munchausen by proxy that damaged her childhood and cost her little sister’s life. But this book also raises some very interesting questions about this little-known mental disorder, and the impact that a false accusation can have on a family.
Between Mitochondrial disease, PANS disease, Hunter Syndrome and Fucosidosis, the list of rare and hard to diagnose diseases seems to get longer with each passing year. And with it, the list of parents who are accused of abusing their children.
Now, don’t misunderstand the point here. Munchausen by proxy is very real. It does happen, and it’s a tragedy that can destroy children’s lives and tear families apart. But the fact is, it happens far less often than we are led to believe. Like so many rare mental illnesses, it tends to be sensationalized by the media. Treated as if it were something “exotic”. Also, it is often represented as something that happens with so much regularity that it often goes unnoticed in our communities. A cancer beneath the glossy surface of suburbia, if you will.
But the reality is substantially different. When it does happen, it’s awful. But more often than not, what gets labeled as Munchausen by proxy is actually just a tragic twist of fate. A child with a little known and frequently misdiagnosed illness that doctors do not recognize for what it is, and thus, they label the parent as an abuser.
Imagine your child suffering from symptoms that don’t make sense to you. Symptoms that cannot be matched to any childhood illness you have ever heard of. So you take them to a doctor, who is as confused as you. They refer you to a specialist, who conducts a number of tests, and finds nothing.
Suddenly, the medical staff who were going to fix everything, who were going to be your child’s salvation, are turning to you for answers. Did you do this? Did you give your child something to make them sick? Are you in such desperate need of attention that you would risk your child’s life? Are you really such a monster? As if the undiagnosed illness of your child isn’t terrible enough, now suddenly you’re to blame.
Unfortunately, accusations against innocent parents are far more common than actual instances of Munchausen by proxy. After all, everyone wants a quick and easy solution to a problem. If there is no immediately available diagnosis for a child’s strange list of symptoms, then it must be the parents! Except, it very often isn’t. In fact, more often than not, it’s a disease so rare, so little documented that most doctors don’t even know it exists. But that is not an easy answer. And it requires a specialist to admit their ignorance.
We have spent decades defending falsely accused parents. Parents who have been accused of abusing their children, when the real culprit is simply a tragic disease. Or a rare birth defect. Or medical ignorance. So if you or a loved one have been falsely accused of harming a child, contact us immediately. We can help you through this heartbreaking time and fight for your family. We can make a difference.