, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 98-102
Date: 01 Dec 2004

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

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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.

The investigations reported in this manuscript were carried out in Münster.