This is the second part of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Just Science podcast of an interview with Mike Weber regarding his investigation of the poisoning of a child by her mother, which involved the 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.
In the first part of the interview with Weber, general issues in cases of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy are discussed. Weber then reports on how the healthcare professionals involved in the testing and observations of the child and interactions with the mother raised suspicions of possible child abuse. The physician reported these suspicions to child protective services, which led to an investigation. Weber, the primary investigator, proceeded to gain information about the mother, her relationship with her child, and all of the medical treatment she had initiated with the child. There was evidence that the mother, through her own research and access to various pathogens stored at the chemical lab where she worked, had physically and emotionally harmed her child in an effort to falsify or simulate illness in her child. The investigative conclusion was that the mother's willful motivation was to gain attention as the suffering, sacrificial mother caring for a seriously ill child, knowing that the harm inflicted on the child was endangering her physical and emotional health. After accumulating this evidence, Weber interviewed the mother, leading to admissions that led to her arrest and eventual plea negotiation that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence for the mother. Weber discusses investigative principles for such cases and the need for improved investigative training and victim services.
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