This third "episode" of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcasts features the first of a two-part interview with Mike Weber regarding forensic aspects of a case he investigated that involved the poisoning of a child that stemmed from Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, a rare form of child or elderly abuse in which a primary caretaker (in this case the mother) exaggerates or creates the victim's symptoms of illnesses.
Before discussing issues in the particular case, some general issues in cases of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy are discussed, such as the detection of such cases, the role of healthcare providers who treat a child victim of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, and what determines whether the perpetrator's behavior is criminal. Regarding the particular case at issue, Weber presents a profile of the mother who abused one of her children and the nature of her abusive behavior toward the child. In this first part of the audio interview, Weber recounts how medical personnel became suspicious at the mother's insistence that her child had cystic fibrosis when medical diagnosis refuted that claim. She persisted, however, in demanding that her child be treated for it. Fearing that the mother's insistence on treating her child as though she had the disease would lead her to abuse the child, the physician contacted child protective services for an investigation. Part II of the interview with Mike Weber will focus on the features of the investigation.