by Laura McFarland, Communications Director
As the mother of two small children, this is the kind of article I’d prefer to skip over and never have to know about. This past January Garnett-Paul Spears, aged 5, died from sodium poisoning. His mother, Lacey Spears, has been charged with committing depraved murder and manslaughter in the case.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, a disorder wherein caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy, has not been specifically mentioned by the prosecutors though “Spears fits the pattern” of such caregivers as noted by some experts.
Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book Playing Sick, said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, with its quick and easy access to a potentially huge, sympathetic audience. One study estimates there are more than 600 cases a year in the U.S. alone. For example, doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support. In a 2011 case in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Most cases rarely end in death; when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Read more…