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Munchausen Syndrome


Feb 3 2005

Fourth Prof Meadow case

By Megan Lloyd Davies

ANOTHER mother convicted of murdering her babies partly on the evidence of discredited expert Professor Sir Roy Meadow was given the go-ahead to appeal yesterday.

Donna Anthony, 31, had been jailed for life in 1998 after daughter Jordan, 11 months, and son Michael, four months, died a year apart.

An appeal two years later was rejected, but the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has examined the evidence and ordered a fresh hearing. It could the fourth major case in which paediatrician Prof Meadow's testimony over sudden baby deaths has proved unsafe.

Angela Cannings and Sally Clark were freed on appeal and pharmacist Trupti Patel was acquitted at trial after evidence from Prof Meadow was ruled unsatisfactory.

Anthony, from Yeovil, Somerset, had her case given top priority after the quashing of the Cannings conviction.

Mrs Cannings said: "It is fantastic." Referring to Prof Meadow, she added: "How many more cases are there out there?"

The professor's theory suggests one cot death is an accident, two suspicious and three murder.

He also believes mums can suffer from Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, causing them to harm their babies to draw attention to themselves.

Yesterday the CCRC said it had considered a range of issues relating to Anthony, including new expert medical evidence.

Its chairman, Professor Graham Zellick, said the review took time, adding: "We have to assess whether there is a real possibility that the conviction will be quashed.

"That must be carried out painstakingly."

Anthony's lawyer George Hawks said: "I am overjoyed for her but this is a first step." She says both babies were cot-death victims

The professor's theory suggests one cot death is an accident, two suspicious and three murder.

*Painys theory suggests that some professor's are too confident that they know everything

If I recall correctly the pattern of cot death is that 1 in 1000 children suffer the syndrome, but if that occurs, the chance of its siblings suffering the same fate is a shade over 50%.

The Professor seemed to play a strange combinatorial statistical Three Card Monte, that made a third loss in a family not a likely tragedy, but millions to one fluke or more likely murder. Thus ignoring the idea of there being a predisposition to that form of death in the family. Unfortunately, the scum who was coining it on that theory, wasn't caught soon enough.

Never trust a man who's built his career on a single point.
Emperor said:
Not sure this has come up before but I thought it worth mentioning:

Munchausen by Internet: Faking Illness Online.

I used to spend quite a lot of time on a fashion-related Usenet newsgroup, and there was one woman on there who always had a sob story about her health, or her husband's, and the group members, by and large a very generous bunch, would be sending her top-of-the-line beauty products to make her feel better. Nice one. :roll:
Woman Accused Of Making Daughter Sick Pleads Guilty

Authorities: Hidden Camera Caught IV Tampering

POSTED: 2:49 pm EST February 14, 2005
UPDATED: 4:22 pm EST February 14, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS -- A woman accused of injecting contaminants in her hospitalized daughter's intravenous tube to get attention pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of battery.

Authorities said a hidden camera caught Tracie Fleck, now 35, tampering with her then-1-year-old daughter's IV line at Riley Hospital for Children in January 2004.

Police said they hid the camera in the daughter's hospital room because the child had been hospitalized 11 times and kept getting infections.

Authorities said the mother's actions made the girl dangerously ill. The child survived.

Fleck confessed that she tampered with the IV to gain attention for herself, authorities said. Doctors described Fleck's actions as evidence of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a caregiver makes someone sick to garner sympathy, RTV6 reported.

Copyright 2005 by TheIndyChannel.com

Longer report:

Mom admits fouling young daughter's IV

Woman accused of injecting human waste into intravenous tube faces 2- to 16-year term.

By Vic Ryckaert
[email protected].
February 15, 2005

A woman accused of injecting human waste into her 21-month-old daughter pleaded guilty to two counts of battery Monday in Marion Superior Court.

Tracie L. Fleck, 34, admitted injuring her daughter, Kennedy Fleck, in January 2004 while the toddler was a patient at Riley Hospital for Children.

At her March 2 sentencing hearing, Fleck will be given a chance to explain what happened. She faces a sentence of two to 16 years in prison.

The hospital's security camera videotaped Fleck tampering with her daughter's intravenous tube on Jan. 8, 2004.

Police say they found a substance consistent with human waste in the child's IV, but Fleck said she was giving her daughter a combination of baby formula, water and a pancreas medicine in an effort to help the child.

"It appears the lady was trying to assist her child when she couldn't get a response from the medical personnel at Riley," defense attorney Tom Leslie said. "She denies and did deny under extreme questioning by officers that she did this to draw attention to herself."

The injection caused an infection, court records show. The bacteria and fungus that caused the infection are the same germs found in fecal matter.

But Leslie said the germs also are found in common filth and likely were caused by a dirty syringe.

"Whether it was fecal matter or not that contaminated the IV solution is irrelevant to the charge," said Roger Rayl, a spokesman for Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. "She contaminated the intravenous solution."

Fleck, Rayl said, pleaded guilty and admitted she knew her actions would harm Kennedy.

Kennedy, who turns 3 in March, has recovered, Leslie said. She lives, along with her twin brother and her 4-year-old brother, with Fleck's mother in Highland, where Fleck also lived.

In court documents, Riley child-abuse expert Dr. Roberta A. Hibbard characterized Fleck's actions as a possible case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

In a Munchausen case, a mother falsely claims a child is sick or intentionally makes a child sick in order to gain attention or sympathy for herself.

Fleck, a mother of three, denies trying to draw sympathy. In the past, Leslie said, she had treated the child by injecting the formula and medicine into her feeding tube.

The child didn't have a feeding tube, only an intravenous tube, during this particular visit, Leslie said.

From the current Private Eye (Eye 1126: 26) higlighting the fundamentally flawed science Meadows was peddling:


Meadowing the waters

THE shadow of discredited paediatrician Prof Sir Roy Meadow hangs over last month's conviction of a West Midlands couple for killing their three-year-old foster child by forcibly administering a large amount of salt as a punishment.

Meadow is the child abuse "expert" whose flawed evidence helped convict innocent mothers Angela Cannings, Sally Clark and Trupti Patel of killing their babies. A key plank of his now highly questionable diagnosis of "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy" - the theory that some mothers deliberately harm their children to get attention for themselves - was his "finding" that some mothers had deliberately overdosed their infants with salt.

Though Meadow was not called to give evidence at the trial of lan and Angela Gay (pictured right), his published work on a handful of alleged cases of salt poisoning provided a yardstick for the experts who did.

And as the Gays were about to start five-year jail terms for apparently deciding together to use salt as a punishment for three-year-old Christian Blewitt, another couple whose child was taken into care because of alleged salt poisoning are trying to reopen their case.

Medical and scientific knowledge of sodium chloride poisoning in children is extremely limited and largely dependent on Meadow. Most cases are triggered naturally by dehydration.

However, other aspects of the prosecution case were equally disquieting. Not least that Christian was found to have suffered two episodes of heart damage, the larger one certainly before he was in the care of the Gays. Although pathologists described it as "unique" and not seen before in a child of his age, the implications of this were not explored by the court. Nor was the fact that in a series of admissions to hospital before Christian lived with the Gays, he had also been diagnosed as suffering from hydrocephalus, a potentially fatal leaking of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain.

News reports of the couple's conviction gave the impression that the Gays were transformed from a loving middle-class couple desperate for a family into monstrous child abusers just five weeks after Christian and his two younger siblings arrived at their home in November 2002.

The court heard that Mr Gay rushed Christian to hospital after he collapsed at their home. He died four days later after suffering brain damage and a heart attack.

The initial suggestion was that after Christian refused to eat his lunch and had thrown it to the floor, the Gays lost their tempers and decided to punish him by giving him salt. It was also suggested that they shook or hit him violently, causing brain damage.

However, it emerged at the trial that Christian's bruising was too fresh and must have occurred while he was in hospital, so the shaking/hitting allegation collapsed, leaving the suggestion that Christian's fatal brain haemorrhaging was caused by high levels of sodium chloride.

Once it was accepted that the brain damage had not resulted from a blow, the Gays were acquitted of murder. This left the vexed question of manslaughter by non-accidental salt poisoning.

Non-accidental salt-poisoning was first posited by Meadow as long ago as 1977, based on one highly controversial case in which he himself admitted administering high levels of salt to the child in question. In a paper published in 1993, he developed his theory recounting a dozen alleged cases either referred directly or reported to him.

When Christian was admitted to hospital he had a blood level of 184 mmols of sodium chloride -well above a normal dose of up to 145 but not necessarily fatal. Experts disagreed about how much salt the couple would have had 'to administer to Christian to raise his blood levels so high - anything between 10 and 40 grams, or up to four teaspoons. There was no evidence about how they could have administered it given that a three year old would not consume so much salt voluntarily and there was no sign on their having exerted force.

Probably the most troubling aspect of the case, which points to Christian having died from natural causes, is that high levels of salt were not being excreted by his kidneys as might have been expected. The body sheds excess salt via urine and sweat; yet Christian's kidneys appeared healthy. This discrepancy even falls short of Meadow's own criteria for looking for salt poisoning. He has suggested that as well as high sodium chloride blood levels, there must be high levels passed through urine. Even after doctors inserted a saline drip into Christian, the amount of sodium chloride in his urine remained low.

One expert told the court that it was possible Christian might have been suffering from a new disease and said the cause of his condition may never be known. Tests on vomit Christian had left on lan Gay's jacket when they arrived at the hospital also showed no sign of salt. It appears that the prosecution recognised the weaknesses in its case. Throughout, it offered the Gays a plea bargain: it would drop the charges against one if the other confessed to either causing a blow or giving salt.

Both foster parents have lodged appeals on the immediate ground that there is no evidence of how they were supposed to have administered the salt, nor of their "joint enterprise". They are also trying to find new medical evidence that might help them.

Barristers representing the couple told the court the Gays were being convicted of little more than a theory, that several medical questions remained unanswered and that Christian's condition had "taken experts to the limits of medical knowledge". As everyone knows, Prof Meadow, now being investigated by the General Medical Council, has been at the wrong end of those limits before.
Interestingly the Beeb report (the first one) makes no mention of MSbP at all (or even FII) - seems to be a bad word around these parts. Also of interest is that she is being accused of using salt.........

Son's bizarre death in salt case

Jeremy Britton
BBC News

David Stocker's death from salt poisoning was sudden and unexpected.

The nine-year-old had spent seven months suffering from a mystery illness that baffled doctors at both his local hospital in Hornchurch, Essex, as well as the world famous Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

But his death followed a series of unusual events which made doctors and nurses increasingly suspicious that his mother, Petrina, was deliberately tampering with David's samples and medical equipment in an attempt to fabricate symptoms that were not really there.

Some of David's urine samples seemed to have had blood clots added on top of them.

The vomit samples his mother showed to staff also appeared odd - sometimes looking like blackcurrant juice or smelling minty.

And on two occasions his intravenous drip appeared to have been adjusted and a white powdery substance added.

Disastrous miscalculation

When nurses asked Petrina if they could watch David pass urine she refused, saying he was too embarrassed.

When nurses suggested moving David closer to their nursing station she again refused, saying it would make him upset.

Petrina Stocker's final attempt to deceive the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital proved to be a disastrous miscalculation, the court was told.

In August 2001 she allegedly went into the communal kitchen area and scooped teaspoons of table salt into the bottles containing her son's milk feed.

The prosecution claim she had no intention to kill David, saying that in all likelihood it was another ruse to keep the doctors guessing about his symptoms. Within a few days he was dead.

But how could a mother have turned on her own child - especially when he was suffering from an illness that had seen him turn from a healthy, happy child who adored karate to an anorexic, lethargic patient?

History of deception

What the jury did not know was that Petrina had experienced previous episodes of pretending to be ill.

As a teenager in 1979 she had a series of unexplained blackouts and by October 1981 had appeared to lose consciousness 20 times. The blackouts suddenly stopped that year.

In 1983 she developed a rash on her face, chest and arms which she told friends was leukaemia. She later admitted she had poured cleaning fluid over herself to get attention from her family after having her wisdom teeth removed.

By 1987 her employer noted Petrina was taking a lot of time off with unusual ailments.

When she was asked to supply a urine sample she added granulated sugar to it in an attempt to show she had diabetes.

The prosecution alleged that over many years Petrina Stocker had fabricated symptoms in herself and then in David as well.

This sort of behaviour made some staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital believe she might be showing signs of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy.

Hospital security change

An attempt was also made to transfer David into a psychiatric ward as parents of children were not admitted there.

Petrina Stocker fought the decision, saying it would make David depressed.

In hindsight it appears unfortunate - given the hospital's concerns - that David was not moved to a safer place or closer constraints put on his mother.

Although the staff had watched Stocker - in the words of the defence lawyer - "like spotlights from a watchtower" that had not been enough to prevent David's death.

Great Ormond Street Hospital said staff have introduced new security measures in the kitchen areas of the hospital wards.

Parents are no longer allowed to help prepare feeds and the feed bottles themselves are now kept in locked fridges.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/u ... 287285.stm

Published: 2005/02/24 16:22:34 GMT


Thu 24 Feb 2005

5:42pm (UK)

Mother Awaits Sentence for Killing Nine-Year-Old Son

By Shenai Raif, PA

A mother who killed her son because she was seeking attention was behind bars tonight.

Petrina Stocker spiked nine-year-old David’s hospital drip with 18 teaspoonfuls of salt.

He had been in hospital for months with her at his bedside thwarting attempts by doctors to find out what was wrong with him.

But she was worried that staff, who suspected her of tampering with his symptoms, would soon part them.

Stocker poured the salt into two milk feed bottles hoping that a downturn in his condition would stop him being moved.

But it went tragically wrong when David, who was very weak, collapsed and died after being given one with 13 spoonfuls.

Stocker, 42, was found guilty at the Old Bailey today of David’s manslaughter at Great Ormond Street hospital, central London, in August 2001.

She was said to be suffering from factitious illness by proxy, a disorder previously referred to as Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.

She had in the past pretended to be ill and poured acid on herself in order to get attention.

Judge Gerald Gordon said it was “behaviour which most people would find as incomprehensible”.

He remanded Stocker, of Romford, Essex, in custody for sentencing tomorrow.

After the case, Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Baker said Stocker had sought attention.

He said: “The motive for this would appear to be fabricated or induced illness whereby a mother receives attention through presenting a child at hospital.”

He added: “It is hard to comprehend why a mother would want to harm her own child – the one person she should love and protect above all others.

“Balancing the needs of a criminal investigation with those of a distressed family with a seriously ill child is always going to be difficult.

“The reality is that there are no winners in this case, we have a nine-year-old child dead, his mother convicted of manslaughter and a family torn apart.”

Stocker showed no emotion as she was found guilty following a three-month trial during which the prosecution called 150 witnesses.

Judge Gordon excused the panel from further jury service for 10 years because he said it had been a “very difficult and sad case”.

Jonathan Rees, prosecuting, said after the verdict that in 1983, Stocker had complained of an unexplained rash and was admitted to hospital for two weeks.

Mr Rees said: “In fact, staff found some phials containing acid in her bedside locker.

“She had applied it to her face, arms and legs saying she had a skin infection.”

Mr Rees said Stocker had told a doctor later that “she did it because she was lonely and it had brought her attention from her family and friends”.

5yrs for salt poison mum


A MOTHER who poisoned to death her nine-year-old son by putting salt in his hospital drip feed was jailed for five years yesterday.

Petrina Stocker, 42, accidentally killed karate champion David due to a psychological condition that made her seek attention by faking illness in others.

Sentencing her, Old Bailey Judge Gerald Gordon QC said: “The sentence must reflect the public revulsion at your behaviour.

“It is incomprehensible what drives a mother to behave towards her child as you did. You must live with it for the rest of your life.”

Ex-classroom assistant Stocker added salt to David’s feed bottles to ensure he stayed in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Staff were aware she might have the disease Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, the court was told.

But she still killed David despite constant two-to-one supervision.

A rather long article showing how this can whip up seemingly out of nowhere:

An Irritating Woman

Susan Diamond learned that it doesn't pay to annoy your kids' psychiatrists, even if you're a doctor

[email protected]

Dr. Susan Diamond is delicate as a wren, with large dark eyes and hair swept back in a no-nonsense shoulder-length bob. She's an expert on treating HIV/AIDS, with a thriving practice near Presbyterian Hospital, and her patients describe her as warm and compassionate, a rare doctor who makes house calls and gives out her cell phone number. Colleagues say Diamond is extremely intelligent, a good physician who works hard to stay on the cutting edge of research and treatment of a difficult disease.

She's also a mother of five children. Friends within the Orthodox Jewish community of North Dallas see Diamond as devout, dedicated to raising her children in accordance with God's laws. She keeps a kosher house and doesn't drive on the Sabbath. She lives in the "eruv" area of North Dallas where many Orthodox Jews own homes within walking distance of their synagogues. From 18 minutes before sundown every Friday until sunset the next day, they don't work, drive or do household chores. Only within the eruv are they allowed to push baby strollers and carry prayer books on their way to services.

Most of those patients, friends and colleagues don't understand why, after a bitter divorce battle, Diamond not only lost custody of her children but for months saw them just a few hours in tightly controlled visits at a place designed to host meetings between kids and parents accused of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect. She was allowed to speak to them only about what they were doing at the moment--playing bingo or cards--not how they were doing in school or soccer or Cub Scouts or basketball.

Diamond's life was turned inside out in 1999 when her husband, Rick San Soucie, abruptly announced he wanted a divorce. When he walked out, Diamond, then 44, was five months pregnant with their fifth child.

Raising five children and managing a busy practice was hard enough, but bizarre behavior by her second child, Daniel, created much more stress. Always a difficult child, by age 8, Daniel was acting out in dangerous ways--grabbing knives and chasing family members, threatening to kill himself by jumping in front of a car or over a stair banister, and biting or choking his siblings and other children. (The names of the children have been changed.)

Diamond believed her son was bipolar. But a court-appointed psychiatrist examined Daniel and declared that the problem wasn't the boy; it was his mother.

The doctor believed that Diamond was perpetrating a rare and bizarre kind of deception called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), in which an adult, almost always a mother, manufactures symptoms in a child in order to get attention or her own way. The psychiatrist concluded that Diamond was lying about what her son was doing and manipulating him to win the custody fight. Several nannies testified that Diamond was some kind of "Mommie Dearest."

A second psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Blotcky, initially rejected that judgment and diagnosed Daniel with bipolar disorder. But after months of wrangling with Diamond over medication and custody issues, Blotcky told a family court judge that Diamond was manifesting Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and was indeed dangerous to her children's mental and physical health.

Then recently, an independent court-appointed forensic psychiatrist released a report saying that Blotcky's diagnosis was wrong, that Diamond is not perpetrating MSBP.

Her story illustrates the controversy over the MSBP diagnosis, usually seen in cases where a child has physical symptoms that disappear when the mother is removed. More physicians, confronted with problematic cases, are concluding that these women are fabricating or aggravating their children's disorders.

But critics contend that the warning signs of MSBP are so broad they are worthless, based on anecdotal descriptions of the disorder, not rigorous study. One expert in such factitious disorders says that women who are diagnosed with MSBP are often intractable or irritating people who don't fall in line with psychiatrists and other authority figures when it comes to the treatment of their children. "As a result, mothers who are inappropriately concerned about the health of their children or are problematic in other ways have become entangled in legal battles that should have been resolved clinically," says Dr. Loren Pankratz, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Oregon Health Sciences University.

There's no doubt that Diamond--furious at her husband for leaving her, frightened by her son's dangerous behavior, frustrated by the family court system--can be a maddening, controlling person. She's made serious errors in judgment and behavior. Some Diamond admits; some she denies.

Once labeled, all of Diamond's actions were seen through the prism of MSBP. The court battle has cost Diamond and her former husband hundreds of thousands of dollars. But a close look at the case shows that in punishing Diamond, the court system also penalized her five children, sentencing them to awkward snatches of time with a mother they all profess to love. That's formative time they'll never get back. And there's plenty of blame to go around.

Source (more on that page and 2 more pages)
Mother Who Made Child Ill Sentenced

March 2, 2005, 11:18 PM

By Shana Kelley

Tracie Fleck, 34, pleaded guilty to intentionally making her child sick. She learned her sentence Tuesday.

Fleck showed very little emotion when the judge sentenced her to six years in prison for battery.

Fleck admitted to injecting liquid into her daughter's IV while the 21-month-old was at Riley Hospital.

“There was a dirty syringe used that was used to clean out her feeding tube, which has bacteria consistent with fecal matter,” said Lt. Craig Converse of the IPD Child Abuse Unit.

Those injections caused what doctors describe as a severe and life-threatening infection.

“The evidence we have in this case is that it was systematic and intentional and that it was introduction of harmful bacteria into the child’s bloodstream,” said Prosecutor Mark Busby.

The defense says Fleck was trying to help the then 21-month old Kennedy, not harm her.

“I don't believe she pulled out the syringe with the thought that I'm going to harm my one-year-old child and put bacteria into her body. She loved this child very much," said Kelly Senn. Senn was part of the original defense team who represented Fleck.

“This child’s whole body was suffering and I think that was very important for the judge to realize,” said Busby.

The mother of three apologized for what she did, and told the court she will appeal her sentence.

Kennedy, now 2, is now living with her grandparents.


Woman sentenced for making daughter ill

Indianapolis, March 2 - Thirty-three-year-old Tracie Fleck has been sentenced to six years in prison and two more years probation during which she must stay away from children, including the infant girl she nearly killed.

Mark Busby is a Marion County deputy prosecutor. "The sentence is appropriate. It is an opportunity for her to get help she needs."

Fleck's child was a patient at Riley Hospital for Children. Investigators say the infant was near death, moaning and in pain.

Unable to find the source of the girl's infections, doctors placed a video camera in the room. Investigators say it showed Fleck injecting substances into the infant's IV tube. Doctors believe it occurred nine different times.

Fleck pled guilty to two counts of felony battery.

Indianapolis Police Detective Craig Converse says, "Her comments were her child got more attention and she got more attention as well."

Investigators did not establish whether Fleck suffers from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a condition in which caregivers inflict illnesses on others to gain attention.

Busby calls it "a very sad case. It is the mother. It's a very sad case."

In court Fleck fought back tears, admitting she made a bad choice, that her actions caused someone to suffer needlessly.

Mother may have fed child hair spray

Of The Gazette Staff

A Billings woman is accused of poisoning her 18-month-old daughter with hair spray while the child was being treated in the hospital for pneumonia. A deputy prosecutor said the case could involve a rare type of child abuse called Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Tammy Lynn Grudzinski, 28, pleaded not guilty Monday in District Court to felony assault on a minor. Grudzinski appeared before Judge G. Todd Baugh by video from the county jail where she was ordered held on $30,000 bond. During the arraignment, a deputy prosecutor said investigators suspect that the child may have been poisoned over a period a time. The child is now in state care, officials said, and her condition has improved.

According to court records, staff at St. Vincent Healthcare called police on Feb. 16. The call involved an 18-month-old girl who was admitted to the hospital that day after being brought in by her mother. The girl was being treated for pneumonia.

A nurse said she went into the girl's hospital room at about 6 p.m. to refill the girl's juice cup. When she removed the cup lid, the nurse said, she noticed a milky liquid and a chemical smell. The mother was not in the room at the time, the nurse said.

A short time later the girl vomited, the nurse said, and the chemical smell was again noticed. A doctor was called and confirmed that the substance appeared to be chemical, court records state.

The doctor then asked the girl's mother about the substance in the cup that appeared to have caused the girl to vomit. Court records state the woman said it was hair spray and gave the doctor a can of hair spray.

A forensic pathologist later tested the substance in the girl's cup and determined that it appeared to contain a high level of alcohol, which is found in hair spray, court records state.

Deputy County Attorney Scott Twito said the girl has "extensive" medical records, which will be reviewed by investigators.

According to published reports, a type of child abuse has been identified in which a parent invents or induces illness in a child in order to get attention. The abuse has been called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and can range from falsifying medical records to poisoning or suffocating a child.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

This is the bit which interests me-

a type of child abuse has been identified in which a parent invents or induces illness in a child in order to get attention. The abuse has been called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and can range from falsifying medical records to poisoning or suffocating a child.

'Munchausen syndrome by proxy' is a label for a type of behaviour, which has been proven to take place so we know it happens.

Sometimes MSP is seen as an illness and sometimes, as here, it's given as the name for a type of abuse, with no mention of mental states.

Is it illness, wickedness, both, neither?
If it switches from being one thing to the other then it is unscientific as an explanation.

If it's an illness, then the accused is less culpable than if it's just a name for a type of abuse.

I'm working on MSP for a piece on 'medical murders' and in the Allitt case, MSP was definitely seen as 'bad' rather than 'mad'.

OK, back to the textbooks. :D
Profile: Sir Roy Meadow

The conviction of Donna Anthony, like other high profile baby death cases, was based partly on evidence from the controversial retired paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow.

Ms Anthony, who has been freed by the Court of Appeal, had been found guilty of killing her daughter Jordan, aged 11 months, and her son Michael, aged four months, in 1998.

The prosecution in her case, relying on Sir Roy's evidence, had claimed the babies had been smothered, and that Donna Anthony had been trying to draw attention to herself..

But Ms Anthony had always claimed her children had died of cot death.

It is not the first time the specialist's evidence has been questioned.

Two years ago, Angela Cannings, convicted of murdering her two sons, was also freed by the Court of Appeal. Sir Roy was a prosecution witness during the original trial, but his evidence was heavily criticised by QC Michael Mansfield during Mrs Cannings' appeal.

Mr Mansfield had argued that, were the trial to take place now, it was unlikely the Crown would call Professor Meadow as a witness, or, if they did, it would "have to be done with a health warning attached to it".

Sir Roy Meadow

Educated at a grammar school in Wigan and Oxford University
Worked as a GP in Banbury
Became a senior lecturer at Leeds University
Took up chair in paediatrics and child health in 1980 at St James's University Hospital, Leeds
Former president of British Paediatric Association
Former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Knighted in 1998 for services to child health
Professor Meadow was also a central figure in two previous similar cases.

Solicitor Sally Clark won her appeal in January to overturn her conviction in 1999 for murdering her two baby sons and pharmacist Trupti Patel was found not guilty in June of murdering her three babies.

Giving evidence at the trial of Mrs Clark, Sir Roy told the jury that the chance of two children in such an affluent family dying of cot death was "one in 73 million".

But his claim was disputed by the Royal Statistical Society, which wrote to the Lord Chancellor to say there was "no statistical basis" for the figure.

And Sir Roy's estimate was criticised as "grossly misleading" and "manifestly wrong" by a judge during Mrs Clark's second appeal hearing.


Sir Roy first came to prominence in 1977 after publishing a paper in The Lancet medical journal on a condition he dubbed as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

This is a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child.

Perhaps the most high profile example was the case of nurse Beverly Allit, who murdered four children and harmed nine others. Professor Meadow worked on this case.

But even his work in this field has been subject to controversy.

In the House of Lords recently, Earl Howe, the Opposition spokesman on health, accused the professor of inventing a 'theory without science' and refusing to produce any real evidence to prove that Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy actually exists.

Meadow's law

However, Sir Roy is most renowned for an observation in a book that became universally known as "Meadow's Law".

This states that: "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise."

He has since gained a reputation for being particularly severe when confronted with cases of multiple child deaths in one family.

Many supporters, however, have championed Professor Meadow, calling him a man of great skill and compassion.

It is also true that the Court of Appeal decision to quash Mrs Clark's murder convictions did not hinge on Professor Meadow's statistics.

A CPS spokeswoman said previously that Professor Meadow did not use statistics in the Patel and Cannings trials and had been just one of a number of expert witnesses to be called by the prosecution.

Asked whether he would be called again as a witness, she said: "There is no professional body that has found against Professor Meadow that we are aware of.

"It would depend on the case and what the evidence was whichever expert was chosen."

Professor Meadow is set to face a General Medical Council professional conduct committee hearing over the allegations against him.

He told Channel 4 News in January this year that he would like to speak out about his work, but confidentiality prevented him.

He added: "Much as I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the general subject of child abuse and to help clarify some of the current misunderstandings, my legal advisors have forbidden such discussions at present."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/h ... 432273.stm

Published: 2005/04/11 14:12:29 GMT

last updated: 4/10/2005

Mother set to be tried for infant's death 10 years ago

ABC13 Eyewitness News

(4/10/05 - HOUSTON) — A woman charged with killing her baby is set to go on trial on Monday.

Kimberly Austin is accused of killing seven-month-old Joshua more than 10 years ago. His initial cause of death was ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But the boy's body was later exhumed and re-examined.

Investigators say Austin suffers from Munchausen’s by proxy, a condition where caregivers can injure others in order to get attention.

Austin was also charged with injecting insulin into her then two-year-old son, Noah. He suffered brain damage.

(Copyright © 2005, KTRK-TV)

Mother jailed in baby deaths wins freedom

Published: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 11:34 AM Doha Time

LONDON: A mother who spent more than six years in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing her two children was finally cleared yesterday.

Donna Anthony, 31, was jailed for life in 1998 for the murders of her 11-month-old daughter Jordan and her four-month-old son Michael.

The prosecution’s case that Donna had smothered both children had been held together by the evidence of paediatrician professor Sir Roy Meadow, then regarded as the pre-eminent expert in his field.

But Donna was allowed to appeal against her conviction after professor Meadow’s testimony was discredited following a series of high-profile miscarriages of justice.

Yesterday, after professor Meadow was again criticised for his ‘dogmatic’ evidence and ‘crude and inaccurate’ use of statistics, Donna was cleared of both charges by the Appeal Court and freed from the dock.

After Donna had been jailed at Bristol Crown Court she endured daily taunts from fellow inmates.

Her husband - a prosecution witness - divorced her, and Donna’s mother, who never lost faith in her innocence, died while she was inside.

Donna, of Yeovil, Somerset, has no home to go to and was to stay in a hotel room yesterday.

She always maintained her innocence and claimed that both her children were victims of cot death, but her original appeal in June 2000 was dismissed.

Donna’s case became one of 28 referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) following the quashing of Angela Cannings’ convictions for murdering her two baby sons in January last year.

Last month the CCRC decided to send Donna’s case back to the Court of Appeal after being presented with new evidence concerning the death of her son.

An autopsy study on a sample of Michael’s blood found the significant presence of bacteria.

Ray Tully, representing Donna, said: “In this concentration this can be fatal and where that is so, death is rapid.

“The presence in the blood in this number is a good indicator that in this case there was death by toxic shock.

“It clearly follows that if a natural cause of death for Michael may be established then the conviction for his murder is unsafe. Equally, if conviction for his murder is unsafe it follows that conviction for the murder of Jordan is also unsafe.”

Paul Dunkels QC said the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to contest the defence’s claim that the murder convictions were unsafe. He added that the Crown Prosecution Service did not wish to seek a retrial.

Donna’s appeal was to be followed later yesterday by a similar case in which Chah’ Oh-Niyol Kai-Whitewind is challenging her conviction of murdering her 12-week-old son.

Professor Meadow is facing an inquiry by the General Medical Council into allegations of serious professional misconduct.

He developed the theory that some women may deliberately harm their babies to draw attention to themselves - a condition called Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.

His theories were widely adopted by doctors and social workers, who went by his mantra of one cot death is a tragedy, two are suspicious and three, unless proved otherwise, is murder.

But following the decision in 2003 to overturn the conviction of Manchester solicitor Sally Clark of murdering her two sons, the case of Angela Cannings, and the acquittal of pharmacist Trupti Patel on charges of murdering her three babies, professor Meadow’s theories were discarded. – London Evening Standard


Apr 12 2005

DONNA Anthony is the fourth woman to walk free after cases which relied on the key evidence of Prof Sir Roy Meadow.

He was also an expert witness at the trials of Sally Clark, Trupti Patel and Angela Cannings. All denied murdering their children and eventually all were vindicated.

Sally Clark was jailed after being convicted of murdering her two baby sons. The paediatrician told her trial the odds of two natural cot deaths in a middle class, non- smoking family were 73million in one. But Mrs Clark walked free in January 2003.

Six months later Trupti Patel was acquitted of murdering her three babies.

And in December 2003 Angela Cannings was freed on appeal.

She spent 18 months in jail after being wrongly convicted of murdering her babies seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and Matthew, 18 weeks, in 1999.

Meadow, a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, coined the term Munchausen's syndrome by proxy for parents who harm their children to draw attention to themselves.

He was the expert in the field and was rewarded with a knighthood when he retired from St James' University Hospital in Leeds in 1998.

Many still refuse to doubt him despite some of the mothers he accused being cleared.

In January he even got a standing ovation at a conference of child protection workers in the US. But critics say he was too quick to diagnose child abuse, even when it didn't exist, and has destroyed families.

He was such a firm believer in the formula, "Unless proven otherwise, one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder" that it became known as Meadow's Law.

He claims he is the victim of a witchhunt because the public is unwilling to believe mums are as likely as dads to harm children.

But the paediatrician who influenced a generation of professionals during his 30-year career now faces a General Medical Council misconduct hearing later this year.

His opponents say his misplaced theories have not only wrongly condemned women to jail but seen scores of other parents lose their children in the Family Courts system.

Sun 17 Apr 2005

Just an opinion, but let's keep intuition out of the witness box


GUT instinct tells me intuition is real. It also tells me it has a scientific basis. Dismiss that as feminine logic if you like but Professor Sir Robert Winston once told me that millions of years ago, when we faced our ancestors on the Savannah, we had to make up our minds pretty quickly whether they were friend or foe. Otherwise, we risked a stake between our eyes.

Since then, I’ve thought of the interview room as my own little Savannah. When I first started interviewing celebrities, I realised how instinctively we make judgments. At first, I thought mine were unscientific whims.

Gradually, I came to realise they were actually based on tangible signals. The way the mouth smiled but the eyes didn’t. The sincerity of eye contact. Sometimes, I couldn’t define exactly what the signals were. But that didn’t mean I hadn’t received them.

I have used intuition for deciding matters of crucial importance. Like assessing whether the husband accused of infidelity on television’s Tricia is actually lying or not. Like watching I’m a Celebrity and deciding that Peter Andre and Jordan were indeed a real couple and not a publicity stunt. (For heaven’s sake, cynics, it was OBVIOUS!)

But I wouldn’t have stood up in court and given evidence on it. Intuition may be a sort of science but it’s an inexact one. It also used to be regarded as a feminine one but researchers last week claimed men’s intuition is as sound as women’s. Not men like Professor David Southall, that’s for sure.

Perhaps the difference is that women admit intuition is partly instinct, while men like Southall dress it up in pseudoscientific theory and try to pass it off as fact. I use it to watch I’m a Celebrity. Professor Southall uses it to watch Dispatches, a programme about the case of Sally Clark, who was wrongly jailed for murdering her two infant sons. Southall had never met Sally Clark or her husband Stephen but he, too, thought the wrong person was in jail. He phoned the police after watching because it was obvious. It was the father wot dun it.

Only it wasn’t. At the time he phoned police, Southall was already suspended from his post, instructed to do no child protection work without permission. That didn’t stop him telling police his theory was "beyond reasonable doubt". Last week, the High Court upheld a GMC decision banning Southall from child protection work for three years. There has, apparently, still never been a conversation between Southall and Stephen Clark. Hard to know what Southall could say, of course, but sorry might be a start.

Sadly, Southall’s professional life has collapsed when, with a little more humility, he might have been an asset. His career has included important research into cot death and Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. But sometimes, important people who are called on to exercise judgment in their work come to trust their instincts too much. They see opinions as fact. More dangerously, they see opinion as science.

Southall was not believed in the Clark case. But his colleague Sir Roy Meadows was. During Clark’s trial, Meadows claimed she must be guilty because there was only a one in 73 million chance of two cot deaths occurring in the same family. The statistic was later proved to be nonsense but by then it was too late. Nonsense is enough to put you in jail.

Southall and Meadows illustrate a problem with expert witnesses in our courts. Their testimony is regarded as infallible because no-one else in the courtroom apparently has their level of expertise.

Every case Meadows was involved in now has to be re-examined, with a list of injustices already emerging: Sally Clark, Angela Cannings, Trupti Patel, Donna Anthony.

The many cases in which David Southall provided ‘expert’ testimony are also to be reviewed. Southall was the crucial expert who gave evidence about specks of blood in the case of headmaster Sion Jenkins, who was jailed for the murder of his foster daughter Billie-Jo. The conviction was quashed last summer and Jenkins faces a retrial.

At the start of this column, I threw in Robert Winston’s name. I thought it might add weight and credibility. Winston, after all, is a ‘Sir’. A ‘Professor’. But then, Roy Meadows is a Sir. David Southall is a Professor. Establishment figures with titles can talk mince and we’ll still believe them.

Our powers of intuition are basic and have been around a long time which is not to say they are not sophisticated. My father used to quote a little poem. It dated back to the 17th century and made me smile every time he recited it. "I do not like thee Dr Fell/ The reason why I cannot tell/But this I know and know it well/I do not like thee Dr Fell." It’s about intuition, a powerful and sometimes useful tool. As long as we don’t get it mixed up with something else.

And ultimately this is what it comes down to at the moment - expert opinion vs expert opinion and tempers running high!!!

Expert declares accused parents 'normal'

Munchausen by proxy at core of Butler trial

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A nationally known expert in the study of Munchausen syndrome by proxy testified yesterday that a Butler County couple who lost custody of their children last fall are "normal parents" who were swept up in the medical community's confusion over a neurological disease that is difficult to diagnose.

Dr. Loren Pankratz, a medical psychologist and clinical professor with the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, told Butler County juvenile court he flew to Pittsburgh at his own expense and is foregoing his usual $15,000 witness fee because he is convinced that Mannie and Ron Taimuty-Loomis are innocent of accusations that they concocted a set of medical ailments for two of their three children.

It was an explosive hearing, not just for the dramatic testimony on the opening day of the defense's case, but also for the display of tempers that led to two defense lawyers being arrested by sheriff's deputies at the direction of juvenile court Master Joe Brydon, who is presiding over the case.

Defense attorney Mildred Sweeney and her daughter, co-counsel Flora Sweeney, of Cranberry, were brought before President Judge Thomas Doerr on contempt of court charges. The elder Sweeney was arrested after she yelled at Brydon for referring to her repeated objections as "embellishments," and the younger attorney was accused by Brydon of failing to follow his orders when she tried to accompany her mother with the sheriff's deputies. Mildred Sweeney was held in contempt and ordered to pay a $100 fine. The daughter was not fined.

Pankratz testified he has been studying the range of "patients who deceive in the medical setting" for 30 years and has been hired by prosecutors, defense attorneys, insurance companies and the Roman Catholic Church as an expert in medical deception. "I have no agenda, no axe to grind. I call each case like I see it," he said.

When it comes to the Taimuty-Loomises, Pankratz said he is convinced they are the victims of false allegations of Munchausen syndrome by proxy -- a psychological disorder that involves a parent, usually the mother, causing or reporting medical symptoms that lead to medical interventions.

The Taimuty-Loomis children -- Ezra, Adia and Symia, now ages 7, 5, and 2, respectively -- were taken from their home in September by Butler County Children and Youth Services. CYS said Mannie Taimuty-Loomis manipulated doctors into giving Ezra and Symia narcotic drugs and feeding tubes.

The parents contend that Ezra, and possibly Symia, have mitochondrial disease, in which the mitochondira -- the part of the cell responsible for energy production -- fails to work properly.

CYS Solicitor Dan Houlihan presented testimony during 10 court days from medical and school professionals, contrasting pictures of children who were failing to thrive when under the parents' care and who now are doing well in foster care.

Pankratz said he has found the "separation test" to be unreliable proof of Munchausen's because children's conditions can improve for a variety of reasons, including changes in medical treatment.

He said that if he were the Taimuty-Loomises, he would be predisposed to believing the children had mitochondrial disease because of medical symptoms that were objectively noted by doctors as well as medical indications that a sibling, Jonah, had died just shy of his third birthday in January 2001 from complications of the disease, which often runs in families.

Pankratz said the couple are "worthy parents" who "were caught up in the doctors' differences of opinions as to how the children should be managed medically. ... The symptoms and treatment of these children were not driven by the imaginations of the parents."

The defense case is expected to continue today with testimony from an expert in mitochondrial disease who defense attorneys say will testify that Ezra has the disorder. The case is expected to be concluded this week.


Without direct evidence (like we've seen in some of the above cases) I really doubt it will be possible (or wise) to get a MSbP conviction at the moment and this mess really needs to be sorted out because the kids are the ones getting messed around.
Poor family. Like they don't have enough problems without the parents being accused of child abuse. :evil:
This is odd:

Women ‘fake cancer histories for treatment’

ALAN MacDERMID April 22 2005

THE woman sitting in front of the surgeon made out a convincing case for having her breasts removed – a family history of cancer, including her late mother.

But as the nurse sitting in on the consultation listened, she was stunned to realise that their patient was lying.

Confronted by staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the woman got up and left.

A study of medical experts has indicated that a growing number of patients supposedly at high-risk of genetically-linked breast cancer are inventing family histories in order to receive treatment.

Each year, at least 1% of purported cases are discovered to be false, according to the research by clinicians in Britain and Canada. This equates to about 30 cases being detected every 12 months in the 19 breast cancer genetic units around the country.

Some patients had already undergone preventive operations, only for doctors to find out later that the women faced no real extra risk of developing the disease.

It is the latest manifestation to emerge of Munchausen's syndrome, an attention-seeking psychiatric disorder in which patients invent symptoms in order to get treatment.

One of the report's authors, Professor Gareth Evans, a consultant in medical genetics at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, said: "It means that screening, drugs and surgery are provided when they're not really required.

"That provision is made by doctors acting in good faith on the basis of information from patients which is, at times, entirely fictitious."

The report did not surprise Tim Cook, professor of surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who encountered a case 10 years ago when a woman's story unravelled before surgery was carried out.

"It is the only one we have had to our knowledge," he said. "She came along with a very convincing history. Fortunately, our breast nurse sat in while the consultant took the history. Because she wanted surgery she came back to see me, and the same nurse sat in. She noticed the history was different and we became suspicious.

"We rang her GP and he told us that the patient's mother, who was supposed to have died from breast cancer, was in fact alive and well."
When Professor Cook confronted the woman, she simply said "thank you very much", and left.


Women fake family history of cancer, says specialist

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

22 April 2005

Women are faking family histories of breast cancer in order to get treatment, in what specialists say is a version of Munchausen's syndrome.

Professor Gareth Evans, a consultant in medical genetics at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, said at least 1 per cent of "high risk" breast cancer cases are discovered to be false, based on research by clinicians in Britain and Canada.

In the UK, that amounted to 30 cases a year in the 19 breast cancer genetic units around the country. Some patients had had preventive surgery to remove their breasts, only for doctors to find out later that the women faced no extra risk of developing the disease.

Professor Evans warned clinics yesterday to be on their guard in order to protect women from unnecessary treatment. "The women should go through a process of risk assessment with a geneticist, and also have a psychological assessment. With all of those in place women should no longer be getting surgery in that situation," he said.

Women who falsely presented with a family history of the disease received quicker treatment and took resources from genuine patients, he said. In one case a woman had a double preventive mastectomy after claiming that three of her four sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer - a claim that turned out to have been false.

A spokesman said the number of cases had grown and Professor Evans said he had seen 15 similar cases over the past decade. "These are just the ones that were detected," he said.

The situation was difficult for doctors because they required the patient's consent before they could investigate other cases of breast cancer in the family. If the patient claimed family members had died of breast cancer, doctors hit a "clinical brick wall".

In some cases the false information was passed on to unsuspecting relatives who sought treatment because of their fictitious family history.

Munchausen's syndrome is a disorder in which people repeatedly seek unnecessary treatment. Some have been admitted hundreds of times to hospitals all over the country and their bodies are littered with scars from unnecessary exploratory operations.

Professor Evans said the study's findings did not detract from the need for women with concerns about breast cancer to seek help from GPs and specialist clinics. "It's important that we do all we can, both to detect genuine cases and to prevent future incidence of breast cancer," he said.

Sarah Rawlings, policy manager of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "Women with a family history should not be afraid to discuss their issues with a GP and get the support and advice they need. It is also important that relatives talk to each other about their health so they are aware of any diseases that run in the family."

A long article about David Southall:


While I still think he massively overstepped his authority by phoning in a diagnosis based on a TV documentary he was watching (and I suspect the article is slightly biased in his favour) it does highlight some odd and worrying activity by people campaigning against him.

Again the conclusion that this is all a mess which can only result in kids coming to harm (one way or another) still seems unavoidable. :(
Just to add a different POV on the content of that article:

Scourge of the child snatchers;
This article was previously published in The Evening Standard (London), on February 24, 2003.

THE live video footage taken in the maternity ward by the father of the newborn child is deeply shocking. It shows his wife lying peacefully, but exhausted, on the bed after her caesarean, their baby still covered in vernix cradled in her arms. Suddenly, a policeman, in uniform, accompanied by a social worker, burst through the door. The next scene is the most heart-wrenching: the baby is gone and the mother lies slumped and defeated on the maternity ward floor.

Child welfare campaigner Penny Mellor pushes the pause button on her remote control. She has seen the disturbing images of this mother, who subsequently came to her for help, many times. But they tear her apart each time.

"Why did they have to take her baby in that barbaric way?" she asks, her face creased in anguish and anger. "Why did they have to take the baby away at all?" According to Penny, at least six British mothers of whom she knows personally - including Karen Haynes, whose dramatic story we featured last week - have had their newborn babies snatched from them at childbirth in this inhumane manner. A further six mothers, including Sally Clark who was wrongfully jailed for smothering her sons Harry and Christopher, have lost their liberty and been sent to prison for infanticide.

And she knows of more than 100 mothers who, in the past six years, have had their older children taken from them by family courts and put into care.

All of this has happened, she says scathingly, because of incorrect or insufficiently proven allegations of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP).

Unlike Munchausen Syndrome, a rare malady where a depressed mother is said to harm herself as a perverse cry for help, in MSbP a mother is said to cause harm, not to herself, but to her children.

Almost all of these "tragic" child removals have been sanctioned on the say-so of experts, the main one being Sir Roy Meadow, the inventor of MSbP back in 1977, and whose evidence and use of statistics was revealed after Sally Clark successfully appealed against her conviction in the High Court.

Until the release of Sally Clark last month, Penny was a feisty voice in the wilderness coming to the aid of terrified mothers gagged by the family courts. She is currently helping 50 such mothers fight social services' departments up and down the country, which, she says are armed with nothing more than an opinion by Sir Roy and are threatening to take away their children.

These 50 mothers do not have a history of child abuse; their children have neither physical scars nor burns or blemishes. Rather, they are ordinary mothers from Wimbledon or Basingstoke or Tower Hamlets - middle class and working class - who keep on pestering their doctors for answers to their children's undiagnosed illness and who, one day, out of the blue, suddenly find themselves stigmatised with the poisonous allegation of MSbP.

But now Penny hopes the tide may be turning. John Batt, Sally Clark's solicitor, says that his client's important case cannot be seen in isolation, and that it raises the issue of other potential miscarriages of justice.

Powerful people are beginning to line up alongside Penny to question just why many of these mothers - who continue to protest their innocence - have lost their children.

Earlier this month, Lord Howe, shadow spokesperson for Health in the House of Lords, delivered a scathing attack on Sir Roy and his theory. He called MSbP "one of the most pernicious and ill-founded theories to have gained currency in childcare and social services over the past 10 to 15 years".

"It is a theory without science," Lord Howe said, articulating what Penny has long maintained. "There is no body of peer-reviewed research to underpin MSbP. It rests instead on the assertions of its inventor Sir Roy Meadow and on a handful of case histories. When challenged to produce his research papers to justify his original findings, the inventor of MSbP stated, if you please, that he had destroyed them."

Lord Howe's concern is that MSbP has so deeply insinuated itself into the language and thinking of social services that it has become an all-purpose label for problem parents and children. "A loving but apparently fussy mother who, on behalf of her sick child, badgers a GP to take her concerns seriously, can suddenly find herself accused of abuse. Once she has a label of MSbP pinned on her, it is very difficult to remove it."

Yesterday, speaking to the Evening Standard, John Batt paid tribute to the unique role played by Penny in helping him fight the Sally Clark case, and put her contribution into a broader context.

"Experts tell me there is no doubt MSbP exists, but in tiny numbers compared to the numbers who are actually pursued," he said. "A mother accused by social services has no organisation to turn to. One person who, for no material gain and for nothing other than the cause of humanity, has come to the aid of such people is Penny Mellor. She is an extraordinary human being who has helped unstintingly and often with great personal risk to herself."

Penny Mellor has spent £50,000 of her own money, has worked tirelessly, sometimes going 24 hours without a break, and even paid with her liberty, enduring eight months in prison last year for assisting one mother. But who is she?

You only have to meet Penny Mellor, 41, mother of eight, to see that she defies typecasting.

Her partner is the managing director of a food retailing company and earns more than £100,000 a year. At her £250,000 detached house in the West Midlands, from where she runs her national help network, there are leather sofas and original art on the walls. Her friends have dubbed her "the campaigner in the ball gown". And there has been more than one child-protection officer who has done a double-take at the sight of Penny roaring up, armed with files of medical reports, in her turbo-charged Nissan RS-2000 sports car.

Until six years ago, Penny was a relatively ordinary housewife with her hands full. Her seven children (she's subsequently had one more) - then aged 18, 15, nine, six (twins), three and one - took up almost all her time. She did, however, do some voluntary work as a victim-support counsellor for a Domestic Violence Forum, and she was introduced to a mother who was about to have her 11-year-old child taken away from her on the grounds of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

"I had never heard of MSbP," says Penny. "The child had unexplained upper abdominal pain and had been referred from one hospital to another. The doctors believed the mother was fabricating the child's illness, causing her to have unnecessary medical treatment, and social workers were about to remove the child on grounds of MSbP. But the school teacher of the child, who had introduced me to the mother in the first place, saw a warm, loving relationship and was convinced the doctors had it wrong." Penny decided to do some investigating. She took copies of the child's medical notes and went to toxicologists and pharmacologists for a second opinion.

"They came back with reports that the drugs the child had been given by the doctors were the probable cause of her pain. Slowly, I was uncovering evidence that the mother was in all likelihood not guilty but nobody in authority wanted to look at it."

SUBSEQUENTLY, the traumatic removal of the screaming child from the mother's care - by police at gunpoint, in this case - deeply affected Penny. "I began to ask myself some hard questions: How can this be happening in modern day Britain?

"How can a child be removed from a mother on such flimsy unscientific evidence? Why is it all done in secret? If she is being accused of potentially killing or harming her child, why is she not taken to criminal court where there can be an open and proper trial? And why is it that all this is happening on the say so of just one person?"

Disturbingly, Penny recalls: "The police and the social workers would say to me, 'We don't understand anything medical, so we have to go with what the doctors tell us.' Later I saw this extended to the judges too.

"The same expert paediatricians were called time and again. Often Meadow, of course. And even when other doctors gave contrary evidence, it was always his opinion that the judges 'preferred'.

"To me, the absolute authority given to these few doctors, who were inclined to find in favour of their own syndrome, was a recipe for systematic miscarriages of justice on a grand scale."

Sir Roy Meadow declined to comment for this article.

Penny decided to thoroughly research MSbP and the way it was being used to separate seemingly caring mothers from their inexplicably ill children, or from their newborn children following an unexplained sudden death.

Soon, dozens of other vulnerable mothers were calling her after hearing about her through word of mouth. She acknowledges some of these mothers might be guilty but she adopts the age-old English law dictum that says she would rather "one guilty person goes free than 10 innocent people are convicted".

Penny proved herself a tireless voice for voiceless mothers. When John Batt was appointed to the Sally Clark case three years ago the person he turned to for information was Penny. Her children have become used to her walking round pushing a hoover with one foot, telephone in one hand, "call-waiting" sign beeping, and a second telephone ringing in the other.

You become so immersed at the injustice," she says. "You get this awful feeling that no one is listening and that, unless you are involved 24 hours, you are not doing enough." Penny has travelled thousands of miles at her own expense to help mothers up and down the country. She has rooms full of files relating to the more than 150 cases she has worked on.

"The most devastating thing is when these mothers fall through my front door sobbing after losing their children in a secret family court hearing," she says.

ONCE, she was accused of going too far. One family hatched a plot to prevent social workers from taking away the child on grounds of MSbP, and Penny was accused of masterminding the plan, a charge she has always denied.

Despite never having a previous conviction, Penny lost the case and was sent to prison for two years.

She was released after eight months, getting out last November.

Prison was rough, she says. Her baby had to be looked after by her in-laws and an au-pair, and she had to endure being banged up with - and physically beaten up by - inmates in Low Newton, County Durham, and later Foston Hall, Derbyshire, where she broke bread with Britain's most notorious female criminals.

Until the Sally Clark case, it had been one defeat after another. Time and again Penny had to try and comfort an inconsolable mother, like the one in the video footage. That mother physically fought the police to keep her baby with her last ounce of energy but had her four older children taken from her as well - all because of an allegation of MSbP.

But the Sally Clark case, Penny believes, will mark a watershed. "I was watching it live and I just burst into tears," she says. "I saw Sally's haunted look and I cried because I understood that, although she had won, everything that she had lost was there in that instant too.

"But I also cried out of joy, because I saw it as the beginning of the end. That finally people are going to listen. That finally people will demand a public inquiry that will shake up the whole judicial system and reveal the whole MSbP thing for the sham that it is."

I've come to this thread late.
While MSbP probably does exist, Sir Roy seems to have succumbed to the folly of becoming so enamoured of his "discovery" that he tries to force the facts to fit the theory.

Yes, some people deliberately and methodically cause illness in their dependents by contamination or injury, or insist on medical treatment for a wide array of symptoms for which there is no actual basis.

SIDS doesn't usually fit those criteria (the key word being Sudden), and I suspect that most infanticide by suffocation cases are the result of the parent's frustration and inability to cope with the demands of an infant, not a desire for attention.

Drs. Meadow and Southall remind me of Senator Joseph McCarthy finding communists everywhere he looked. Whether their witch hunting is the result of overzealousness or their own desire for attention remains to be seen.
I had a crazy incident regarding MSbP.

One of my sons has multiple disabilities, and some health challenges. He has a well-documented significant chromosome deletion, and is followed by umpteen doctors.

In the US, it's required by law that children with disabilites receive education and some treatments (like Physical therapy, Speech therapy, Occupation therapy) through their schools if they need it. It's up to the school to evaluate and recommend and the parents to request them. It's often a confrontational situation -- schools want to give a little, parents want them to give a lot.

As my son has a rare condition, what we know about it and what he needs to help him get along, has evolved over the years. At one of his yearly education meetings with his teacher, therpaists and school social worker, the wacko social worker accused me of having MSbP, becasue I wanted my son to have some additional therapy. I think everyone at the meeting was stunned by her acquisation. I looked at her and said, "Maybe you don't realize this, but children who are victims of MSbP don't have underlying conditions. My son has a chromsome deletion. Just because I want him to have an extra hour of PT a week doesn't make me someone who has MSbP. I want him to have the extra attention, not me."

Crazy, crazy.
For years I have suffered from a Border Line Personality Disorder with paranoia which was undianosed until lately. So for years people taught I was attention seeking and even at one stage schizophrenic. So I know whats its like Nikoteen. :(
For years I have suffered from a Border Line Personality Disorder with paranoia which was undianosed until lately. So for years people taught I was attention seeking and even at one stage schizophrenic. So I know whats its like Nikoteen

how did you finally get diagnosed? do want to tell us a little more about what happened to you?

quick update on my situation for those who have been folowing it,

since my last post i have been really well , with only one bad day a few weeks ago, i had to pull over in my car and have a coffee and a bit of walk cos the thought actually popped into my head to drive off the road into a barrier. it was a real blast from the past, but luckily it was just a fleeting moment that i kind of talked myself out of.

i dont see the shrink any more but i can call him for support if i need it.