U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP)

NCJ Number
Judicial Officers' Bulletin Volume: 16 Issue: 5 Dated: June 2004 Pages: 33-34,40
Helen Hayward-Brown
Date Published
June 2004
3 pages
This article considers the validity and usefulness of the diagnosis of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP).
Recent developments in the United Kingdom and Australia have brought serious question to the integrity of medical evidence supporting the existence of MSBP. The author argues that the label lacks scientific validity and should be abandoned. Instead of investigating whether any family members suffer from MSBP, the investigation should focus on establishing whether or not child abuse has occurred. Professor Meadow is credited with discovering and coining the phrase MSBP. Recently, in the United Kingdom a full 258 criminal cases in which parents were convicted of harming their child based on the testimony of Meadow have been ordered immediately re-examined because of allegations of professional misconduct on the part of Meadow. Reviews of civil cases involving the testimony of Meadow are expected to follow and lawyers in the United Kingdom have been told to be extremely cautious about any cases involving the testimony of Meadow. In Australia, a court case involving the testimony of Meadow has been set aside because the evidence presented by Meadow was considered of “minimal probative value” and had the potential to be extremely prejudicial. The author cautions that MSBP is not a definitive diagnosis and appears only in the appendix of the DSM IV(R) as a “factitious disorder by proxy.” The literature pertaining to MSBP is criticized as being recursive; the literature is often based on literature of other case studies and not on direct case examination. Finally, the diagnosis of MSBP lacks scientific validity in that it fails the Daubert five factor non-exclusive test. As such, child protection practices should focus on whether or not child abuse is present, rather than relying on a “factitious disorder by proxy” that has not been scientifically established. Tables, endnotes