Munchausen Syndrome by proxy is a mental illness that defies logic and is almost impossible to diagnose. Nobody would ever suspect that a mother would deliberately want to hurt her child, and that's why it took so long to get to the Children's Court last year. Bells should have been ringing long before 115 hospital visits in three years, but finally the court ruled that a mother have no further contact with her four children until they reach the age of 18.
The court heard that she was so obsessed with her eldest son, she neglected the others aged 3, 6 and 7 and described them as "side salad." Experts found they were "forgotten children" and the mother often told her eldest son that he only had a short time to live and actually discussed his funeral arrangements in front of him.
After the mother repeatedly tried to have her children admitted to hospital over a five year period, staff finally became suspicious and believed she was inventing stories or lying. She took the eldest son to hospital 115 times in three years, mostly for asthma attacks and he tried to commit suicide in hospital last year saying that he had "had enough". In another incident, when he started hitting his head against a hard surface in a Wollongong hospital last year, his mother allegedly encouraged him to hit himself harder.
Magistrate Graham Blewitt said he was satisfied that once the eldest child was removed from her care, his asthma ceased completely. "Unfortunately, the child picks up on the mother's behaviour and sees himself as a sick child, that he has no life expectancy and that he will not live long. This is promoted by the mother and she discussed his death and funeral arrangements in his presence" he said.
But there's a problem. All sides agreed that the children want to see their mother and even the eldest boy is very affectionate towards her. The father said the children love their mother dearly and she is a very important part of their lives, and they will never forget her. But once they reach 18, it was agreed that no court order can stop them from seeing her if they want to.
The court not only banned any physical contact between children and mother but any written communication as well, which seems a bit harsh. If this should happen, the father risks losing custody and they could be placed in care. The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) also asked the court to ban the father from having contact with his ex-wife, but this request was denied. The couple have been separated for three years.
The mother denies any abuse and believes doctors dislike her because she is assertive and questions their authority and medical knowledge. She said the children would rather be with her than their father.
The mother's condition is so severe, experts predict that treatment could take ten years or longer but she has refused any offer of treatment because as far as she is concerned, she doesn't have a problem.