International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 98–102

Suffocation and poisoning—the hard-hitting side of Munchausen syndrome by proxy


    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Freiburg
  • T. Bajanowski
    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Essen
  • B. Karger
    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Münster
  • H. Pfeiffer
    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Münster
  • H. Köhler
    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Münster
  • B. Brinkmann
    • Institut für RechtsmedizinUniversitätsklinikum Münster
Case Report

DOI: 10.1007/s00414-004-0496-6

Cite this article as:
Vennemann, B., Bajanowski, T., Karger, B. et al. Int J Legal Med (2005) 119: 98. doi:10.1007/s00414-004-0496-6


Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a severe and difficult to diagnose form of child abuse characterised by the simulation, aggravation or production of symptoms of illness in a child by an adult. MSBP often leads to multiple hospitalisations and has a high mortality and long-term morbidity. This study describes the cases of 5 families with 8 children affected who presented with unexplained neurological or gastrointestinal symptoms or even loss of consciousness. All were victims of poisoning or suffocation by their mothers. Two of those children died and were initially diagnosed as SIDS or natural death, respectively. They were only recognised as MSBP victims after another sibling had fallen ill with similar symptoms. The cases are discussed in consideration of the relevant literature. In addition warning signs of this forensically relevant syndrome and a strategy for the management of suspected MSBP cases are described.


Munchausen syndrome by proxyFactitious illnessChild abusePoisoningSuffocation

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004