Most parents would do anything to protect their children. Go to any lengths to keep them safe, and sacrifice anything if their children were sick.
Which is why stories like that of Lacey Spears, and her son Garnett, are so shocking.
Lacey Spears is a mummy blogger in the US, who has been charged with depraved murder and manslaughter over her five-year-old son’s death. The mother blogged about her son’s battle with illness for many years; prompting sympathy and support from online communities and doctors alike. But when Garnett passed away after being rushed with hospital – and when doctors were not able to identify what was wrong with the little boy – the authorities started investigating.
Ms Spears has since been charged with poisoning her son with salt, through a tube in his stomach – and eventually killing him.
Mamamia previously wrote:
Lacey Spears told friends that Garnett had “failure to thrive” — a catch-all term for children who don’t eat enough and had a feeding tube inserted as a baby. In the first year of his short life Garnett, was in the hospital 23 times, once for five weeks. All these incidences chronicled in detail on social media…
Then, on January 19, five-year-old Garnett was airlifted to hospital.
Lacey’s Facebook page showed heartbreaking images of her little man on life support. She wrote that it appeared to be a stomach virus, but that he battled it bravely. Tragically, he died on January 23rd.
It seemed that suspicion had already begun before his death, with doctors were surprised by the unusually high level of sodium in the five-year-old’s system.
It has been suggested that Ms Spears may suffer from the psychiatric disorder ‘Munchausen by proxy syndrome’.
The more common Munchausen syndrome is when a person fakes an illness in order to get attention; Munchausen by proxy is relatively rare form of child abuse that sees caretakers fabricate or exaggerate illnesses in children to garner sympathy. In Lacey Spears’ case, she was receiving sympathy from her extensive social media networks; on her blog, MySpace, and Twitter.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, “The label ‘Munchausen by proxy syndrome’ is best applied to cases of child abuse in which a caregiver, usually the child’s mother, fabricates symptoms or induces illness in a dependent child, and the doctor mistakenly believes that a naturally occurring illness is present. Thus, an active interaction between the caregiver-perpetrator and medical professional is required for the syndrome to occur.”
Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is also known as ‘fabricated or induced illness by carers’ (FIIC). The illness in the child is faked by actually harming the child, with the most common forms of abuse being apnoea (stopping the breathing of the child) and poisoning (as in Garnett’s case).
If you still can’t understand how such an illness is possible, the Better Health Channel answered some of our questions.
How common is Munchausen by proxy?
Munchausen by proxy is very rare, with estimates suggesting that there are between 15 and 24 cases identified in Australia every year. It is a syndrome usually associated with mothers, although this may be because women are more likely to take on the role of primary caregiver to children.