Publication Date

Summer 7-18-2023


Helms School of Government


Government: Pre-Law; Interdisciplinary Studies


Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, induce, fabricate, symptoms, child abuse, civil liability, good faith, criminal charges, immunity.


Law | Medicine and Health Sciences


Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a relatively rare psychiatric disorder and form of child abuse wherein a caretaker will either purposefully induce real symptoms to make their child appear gravely sick or fabricate false medical symptoms, even in the absence of external rewards. It remains difficult to diagnose perpetrators of MSBP because the caretaker’s extreme concern for their child’s supposed ailments is rationalized as caring and devoted. However, the victim may suffer grievous physical and psychological damage, including death. Thus, it is pivotal that medical professionals and forensic evaluators are conscious of the different warning signs in perpetrators and victims so that they can appropriately intervene and report the suspicions of child abuse to the applicable authorities in their jurisdiction. Under 34 U.S. Code § 20341, mandated reporters working in their professional capacity must report their suspicions of child abuse as soon as they learn of facts that give reason to suspect that a child has suffered an incident of physical injury, sexual abuse, exploitation, or treatment of a child. Failure to report instances of child abuse can result in criminal charges and potential civil liability. While many physicians fear malpractice defamation lawsuits from MSBP perpetrators, they are immune from civil liability if they report under the good faith standard.