False accusations of Munchausen by Proxy, The Truth Behind the Label: Part 5 – Facts from Fantasy
Facts from Fantasy
The fact will always remain that MSBP type child abuse does exist and not all cases are false. In this proven case, a mother injected faeces into the child’s bloodstream.
In the UK one victim of MSBP, Julie Gregory, wrote her first hand account of life as a victim in the book Sickened which makes very difficult and harrowing reading,
Prof David Southall through his research found that MSBP did exist and wrote a research paper on the subject. He used covert video surveillance to film mothers suspected of abuse in action Confirmation of attempted suffocation or other child abuse from CVS.
Prof David Southall is a controversial professional particularly well known for his use of the term MSBP. Many say that he has been over zealous in his diagnoses of MSBP and he has since been struck off by the General Medical Council after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
In 1995/6 the expert Lisa Blakemore-Brown and Prof David Southall were both expert witnesses at a Court Case and in March 1997 a documentary was made in New Zealand featuring Lisa Blakemore-Brown on MSBP alongside Prof David Southall Click Here To See Film
Health advocate Gregory White writes:-
“This documentary was made by TV3, Auckland New Zealand, for their 20/20 programme. It won a Quantas Award for Best Investigative Medical Journalism. It was filmed in Auckland and in England during the early months of 1997 and aired on March 27th 1997.Its focus is the use of the legal term “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy” and how innocent mothers have been destroyed by having it falsely applied to them and blamed for their children’s very real conditions, some of which are related to side effects of drugs and vaccines.It pivotally features a mother who had four children removed in the UK, and moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband; a number of similarly falsely accused families and certain key professional figures, namely, David Southall, a Paediatrician and Lisa Blakemore-Brown, a Psychologist.
The reason it features these professionals is because both were Experts in a court case involving the central family featured in the film.”
Over the years Ms Blakemore-Brown has often spoken out about the over zealous way that paediatricians, in particular, Prof Roy Meadow and Prof David Southall, have targeted innocent parents and diagnosed them falsely as suffering from Munchausen by Proxy particularly she feels after their children have been vaccine injured In 1999 Ms Blakemore-Brown was a witness in the Griffiths Inquiry. Jamie Doward in 2004 wrote about this in Ministers told child harm theory was flawed his report described how Ms Blakemore-Brown had been so concerned about Prof David Southall she had written to the Prime Minister Tony Blair and the then Home Secretary Jack Straw outlining her concerns.
Jamie Doward writes
“Lisa Blakemore-Brown, a child psychologist and expert on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, who, as chairwoman of an organisation called Promoting Parenting Skills acted as an adviser to the Home Office, wrote to then shadow secretary Jack Straw in 1996 warning that MSBP had resulted in a mother being wrongly separated from her children.
Between 1996 and 2002 Blakemore-Brown also raised her concerns in a series of letters to, among others, Tony Blair, health secretaries Frank Dobson, Alun Milburn and Health Minister Jacqui Smith. In each case she received a reply observing only that her concern had ‘been noted’. She also wrote to the Psychologist magazine, warning: ‘I cannot establish a robust scientific base and am aware of a number of cases in which mothers have had children removed on the basis of this diagnosis to discover later that their children had real illnesses or disorders which were missed when the notion of MSBP loomed large.’ “
A history Southall’s work is detailed on David Southall – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia copied below.
“Prior to becoming a pediatrician, Southall spent four years in general adult medicine, one year in obstetrics and two years as a general practioner.
Between 1986 and 1994, Southall led a pilot research project into FII involving video surveillance of young hospital patients in an effort to observe their carers (such as parents or guardians) harming them.] The project, which was conducted at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary in Stoke-on-Trent, observed carers using methods such as suffocation and poisoning to harm the children. As a result of the project, thirty-three parents or stepparents who had harmed their children were prosecuted, and twenty-three were diagnosed with FII.
The project attracted controversy for its methods and for the ethical implications of the research. Critics argued that the desire of the researchers to observe the carers harming the children exposed the children to further abuse, that the betrayal of doctor-patient trust necessarily involved in the surveillance could cause harm to the subjects, and that “a diagnosis should lead to treatment, not punishment” However, the researchers argued that the surveillance saved the lives of many of the children involved, and Southall himself said that “[b]y doing covert video surveillance we are betraying the trust of parents… [b]ut if a parent has been abusing his or her child in this way then the trust between child and parent has already gone.
In the early 1990s, Southall led a study which pioneered continuous negative extrathoracic pressure therapy, a treatment for breathing difficulties in young children involving the application of pressure to the patients’ chests. The study was controversial, with some parents of the children involved suggesting that the treatment was linked to subsequent death or brain injury. The research was the subject of investigations by the hospital involved and inquiries from police. An independent follow-up study concluded in 2006 that there was “no evidence of disadvantage, in terms of long-term disability or psychological outcomes” from the use of the technique.
In 1993, during the Bosnian War, Southall traveled to Sarajevo as a participant in a medical evacuation programme for sick children from the area. Prompted by his experiences there of what he described as “trauma inflicted on children and their families, not only by warring factions, but also by the indolence of the international community”, Southall established Child Advocacy International on his return, to advocate for international child health issues.
In 2004, Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council (GMC), after alleging to police that the husband of Sally Clark was responsible for murdering the couple’s children.Southall made the claim to child protection officers of the Staffordshire police after watching a television documentary about the case. The GMC banned Southall from child protection work for three years; the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence challenged the decision as insufficient and argued that he should be deregistered, but a High Court of Justice decision in 2005 held that the sanction was not unduly lenient.
In February 2007, Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith announced that a review would be held into a number of criminal cases in which Southall gave evidence for the prosecution, following allegations that Southall kept up to 4,450 personal case files on children patients which were kept separate from the official hospital records.
On 4 December 2007, Southall was struck off the medical register after being found guilty of professional misconduct by the General Medical Council.. Southall appealed this decision in the High Court, but the appeal was dismissed . In his judgement, Mr Justice Blake stated that Southall “had speculated on non-medical matters in an offensive manner entirely inconsistent with the status of an independent expert.”
Over the years the term Munchausen by Proxy has become a universal term and has even been used by vets to describe their clients as seen here in “Battered Pets” Munchausen by Proxy
There are also cases where mothers have been accused by the Local Education Authority when trying to access special needs provisions for their child/children. One such case, is the case of Jan Loxley-Blount which she speaks about at a conference held at the House of Lords in 2007.
In another account Debbie Storey a mother of two boys with Asperger Syndrome was accused by a therapist BBC NEWS | Health | Asperger’s abuse inquiry pledged
It is very difficult for paediatricians to know if the case they are dealing with is a real case of MSBP abuse or if they have a genuinely sick child in front of them. If we look at the this document False Allegations of Child Abuse we see it is littered with examples where allegations of child abuse turn out to be false, sometimes resulting in huge miscarriages of justice .One case describes how a mother was jailed, accused of stabbing her child to death with scissors however it was later discovered that this little girl had fact been mauled to death by a pit bull terrier! Another case describes how a man spent 12 years in jail for the rape and murder of his niece. Later however when the autopsy and diagnoses were reviewed in 2005 the child was found to have died by choking on her own vomit caused by a stomach virus.
Over the past few years we have seen miscarriages of justice in the UK established by subsequent court verdicts .These cases are cases where mothers have been found guilty by the justice system but have later been proved innocent. It is clear that medical professionals have a different view on these cases and that is open to debate. Examples of these are
Equally there have been miscarriages of justice in USA
Ryan Page and Jamie Page both cases found here.
However, some professionals believe there is more behind some miscarriages of justice than meets the eye.
Lisa Blakemore-Brown began writing about the cases of MSBP that she was seeing in the 1990’s she said that many of the cases she was seeing had one thing in common, the parents only had an accusation of MSBP after they insisted that the child was vaccine damaged . The first one she wrote about was in The Therapist in 1998.
She became increasingly concerned by what she was seeing, In September 1998 an article in ‘The Scotsman’ written by Stephen Breen said that Lisa Blakemore-Brown was convinced that mothers had been wrongly accused of having MSBP in at least 3 cases. She had complained to the General Medical Council and the Department of Health and asked for a public inquiry.
The only evidence of this article ever existing is in COSA Newsletter November-December 1998 – MENZ Issues
“Accusations of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is the new witch hunt
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) is a very rare and dangerous condition where adults, usually mothers, deliberately harm their children to draw attention to themselves. It ranges from the mother feigning imaginary illness in the child to secure unnecessary medical attention to physically inducing sickness in the child.
It has recently become ‘over-diagnosed’ by some health professionals who are taking children into care after mistakenly accusing parents of harming their children.
The diagnosis should only ever be made where no alternative explanation for a child’s physical condition can be found and where there is clear evidence that the parent has deliberately made the child ill. Sadly it is becoming another witch-hunt which is destroying families. Mothers of children with chronic fatigue syndrome myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder and food allergies have been accused of causing their children to be ill.
British psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown is convinced mothers have been wrongly accused of having MSBP in at least three cases. She has complained to the General Medical Council and asked the Department of Health for a public inquiry.
(The Scotsman (29 Sep 1998). ‘Witch hunt’ warning in abuse scandal, by Stephen Breen)”
So if complaints were sent to the General Medical Council and the Department of Health for a public inquiry was asked for, what did happen to the complaints and why were they never followed up? Lisa may have been on the right track as according to records found, the Statistics of child abuse cases are said to be increasing at an alarming rate as are the cases in the media of parents stating their children have been vaccine damaged.
In an article called “Child abuse by the child protectors” by Charles Pragnell, Mr Pragnell who is an independent social care management consultant, a Child/Family Advocate, and an Expert Defence Witness – Child Protection, who has given evidence to Courts in cases in England, Scotland, and New Zealand he states that:-
“According to statistical evidence in 1992 and 1997, over two-thirds of reports of child abuse in the U.K. have NO substantive basis i.e. False and wrongful accusations. [Dept of Health Statistics]. Similar proportions of false accusations were evident during the same time period in the United States of America and in Australia. There is evidence that false accusations of child abuse are occurring for mistaken, mischievous, and malicious reasons”
In the document REFERRALS, ASSESSMENTS AND CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE ON CHILD PROTECTION REGISTERS, ENGLAND – YEAR ENDING 31 MARCH 2006 A steady increase in the referrals over the years can be seen. It states an increase of 17,300 from 2005 to 2006.
There were 569,300 referrals to social services departments in the year ending 31 March 2006, compared to the previous year’s figure of 552,000
In fact the number of children registered even with a few fluctuations has been rising slowly over the years, as we can see from this part of the chart taken from the site
According to National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children the figures are still rising
The chart shows an increase of 8200 children between 2005 and 2009 who were subjects of child protection plans for abuse..
|Category of abuse||2005||2006||2007||2008||2009|
|Mixed / not recommended by ‘Working Together’||3,000||2,700||2,700||2,500||2,900|
In the USA this is also the case. The figures from 1995 to 2007 were staggering
It says on the National Child Abuse Statistics – Childhelp that
“Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Over 3 million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States; however, those reports can include multiple children. In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.”
Their charts show an alarming increase from 1995 to 2007.
The figures for Australia were also on the rise according to Child abuse and neglect statistics – Resource Sheet – National …
Figures rose from 103.302 in 1998-1999 to 317.526 in 2007-2008
In Canada the same happened How common is child abuse in Canada? Although finding actual statistics for Canada was virtually impossible
“Child abuse is a common problem in Canada.
In the past ten years more and more people are reporting when they think a child is being abused or neglected. Also, police and child protection agencies are finding more children than ever who need protecting. Still, it is estimated that less than one in ten child abuse cases is ever reported to authorities.”
So how do doctors and social workers know who is abusing their child and who are the loving parents trying to do their best? This is the difficult question facing everyone in Child Protection teams from all over the world. On the one hand if they don’t investigate fully, children like Victoria Climbie aged 8 and Baby Jessica Randall, Who Was Murdered By Sadistic Dad, Was Failed … (who both tragically died in the hands of their family) will go on dying and on the other many more parents will be falsely accused and more mothers will end up wrongly imprisoned.
On 19th July 2005 a 104 page document widely known as The Consensus Document entitled “Misdirection of Social Policy” was drawn up by “Consensus”, a group of parents and professionals to outline flaws they saw in the system and to educate and advise those in authority as to how corrections and improvements could be made.
The document states that Department of Health guidelines on “MSBP” issued 2002 are phrased in such a way as to trigger referrals of parents to social workers even without any evidence.
These guidelines state:
“When a possible explanation for signs and symptoms is that they may be fabricated or induced by a carer and as a consequence the child’s health or development is likely to be impaired, a referral should be made to social services.”
The Consensus document outlines a number of cases where it was felt that mistakes were made and where families were falsely accused. These cases were all genuine cases (details were disguised to protect the families )to show the faults in the system and show how accused families, can, even years later still be fighting to clear their names and get their ill and disabled children’s needs met.
Damian Green, a Conservative front bench spokesman once said that he believed that the guidelines are encouraging social workers to be over zealous in their attempts to find MSBP. He said
“You have the possibility of huge injustices arising through the inflexibility of these guidelines which are based on questionable theories”
And Dr Lynne Wrennall says that
“The need to re-write relevant policy, protocols and guidance is imperative.”
After she came across a case of child who was found to have no organic cause for his illness. His parents were subsequently accused of MSBP only to later found child in fact had a brain tumor.
The Consensus Document “Misdirection of Social Policy“
It has been widely understood that MSBP type abuse exists and in the opening of the Consensus document it states this.
“It is accepted as a truth by Consensus that some parents (and some carers) do take actions – whether deliberately or negligently – which harm their children. Nothing in this document, here or elsewhere, should be taken for a suggestion that this does not happen. It does. In all probability, this unfortunate trait forms an innate part of the human condition; it has in all probability been with us from time immemorial; it has long been acknowledged as a proper basis for Child Protection. For the purposes of this paper, the proper issues are whether there is a ’syndrome’ to this effect; and whether this syndrome is accurately defined and accurately diagnosed; and whether this syndrome forms a helpful prism through which to view (and discern fault in) the ordinary traits and ordinary behaviours of humankind.”
The Consensus document goes on to explain how the present guidelines work in practice and this is paramount. I have shown part of the guidelines which are clearly not clear enough because this is what Consensus says can happen when professionals follow the guidelines to the ‘t’, on referral.
“2(i): How the Guidelines work in Practice
A. THE REFERRAL
The effect of the MSbP Guidelines is that parents can be referred to Social Services for MSbP – at any time, for any reason, by any person:
1. The Guidelines provide lists of ‘non-exhaustive’ factors (under scores of broad categories) which may indicate that parents may be guilty of harming their children.
2. Any of these factors (commonly present in normal parents and non-abused children) is regarded as sufficient to indicate that a child’s symptoms may be likely to have been fabricated or induced by a carer 3.
3. There is no need for an actual diagnosis.
4. If anyone thinks that the criteria may be satisfied, the Guidelines stipulate that a referral to Social Services should be made under Para 3.12: . “When a possible explanation for the signs and symptoms is that they may be fabricated or induced by a carer, and as a consequence the child’s health or development is or is likely to be impaired, a referral should be made to Social Services.”
5. Thereafter, Social Services are enjoined to treat the parents as though a real risk is present; and as though the parents are suspects against whom a case has already been made.
Following the guidelines, whether you are a Social worker or medical professional , you are “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” and if taken to the letter, they really could apply to absolutely any child brought into casualty. Also presuming that every professional who is dealing with the child/children is following the same set of Government guidelines then virtually everyone is looking for child abuse in every imaginable set of circumstances. I feel this is taking “political correctness” a step too far and is exactly in line with what the first line of section 2 of the Consensus is trying to point out.
“The effect of the MSbP Guidelines is that parents can be referred to Social Services for MSbP – at any time, for any reason, by any person:”
In 2(ii) of the Consensus it explains that parents are guilty whether they admit or deny the allegation.
2 (ii): How the Guidelines work in Practice
B. AFTER THE REFERRAL
Once a referral to Social Services has been made, the parents are trapped – whether they deny the accusations or admit them.
This is explained and goes on to say even a parent is also guilty if they insist their child is ill or if they try to co-operate.
4(i) to deny the accusations and insist the child has genuine medical problems
- this is interpreted by the Child Protection Committee as presenting a high-risk to the child 7
- such parents are “entrenched” in wrong thinking and cannot “change” their “perceptions”
- proceedings may be initiated for removal (irrespective of medical reports to the contrary)
(ii) to “work with” the Social Services and “admit” the child is well
- parents are coerced, under the threat of removal, into viewing their child “more positively”
- re-evaluations are limited to evaluating the change in the parent’s “perceptions”
- the child’s actual medical and educational needs are less likely to be met or considered”
Once a referral is made instead of being innocent until proven guilty the complete reverse is happening. At present the umbrella is too wide and the reason for this is that the Government guidelines are too broad. Everyone is trying their best “in the interest of the child” to follow them. The problem is how can professionals follow guidelines that are this broad? If they are not followed cases like Victoria Climbie are bound to happen, however if they are followed to the letter then thousands of innocent parents can be falsely accused.
As the Countess of Mar declared in a debate in the House of Lords in December 2003 (following Angela Cannings’ successful appeal against conviction in a case concerning MSbP equivalent to the stigma of witchcraft in the Middle Ages;) there is no trial, and no one is guilty until one can prove one is not guilty, and one has no way in which to prove one is not guilty.
All this leads to section 4 of the Consensus
“4. A Bleak Harvest?
Adverse consequences of the MSbP misadventure seem to include, each year: – multiple thousands of needless and damaging investigations
Adverse consequences of the MSbP misadventure seem to include, each year:
a. multiple thousands of needless and damaging investigations
b. widespread and wrongful removal of children from their parents
c. the potential for (or actuality of) wrongful criminal convictions
d. extreme familial disruption and needless personal ruination
e. misallocation of resources deflected from children in real need”
All in all, here we have an excellent document written to show how improvements could be made but it seems very few lessons have been learned. At the time the consensus was made public, a group of MPs and professionals known as ‘The Consensus Group’ were working with the Government, meeting and speaking together. These included Earl Howe, Labour MP Jon Cruddas, Dr Richard Taylor, Conservative MP Nick Gibb, Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone and Child Psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown. This no longer exists.
The Consensus document was written by a large group of professionals from various walks of life who saw a system was failing. It appeared that the result was that a large number of innocent parents were being accused of MSBP. These were parents with children who were sick or disabled that were being denied help. These professionals came together to discuss and draw up a document outlining what they saw going wrong and why. It was written for politicians and the Government, to advise where the problems were seen to be and where changes may be made, for this reason it was not a Scientific document but a consensus of views. There are many instances where opinions are sought from service users and professionals.
The recommendations should have been discussed further to allow further development of policy. This was the logical way forward. The document had no named author. This was to protect the identities of all the professionals due to the fear of harassment. Sadly the Consensus document was heavily criticized by the media and certain campaign groups, some of who never checked out the facts before voicing their opinions. Every opinion should count when there is a discussion of further improvements of policy. If the scientific community had reservations in accepting this document, they should have used it as a baseline to develop further larger studies containing a random group of cases. The recommendations could have been investigated further but it seems that the child protection specialists have so far failed to examine the issues to determine whether or not they can be implemented.
Specialists from the scientific community have mistaken it and compared the document to a scientific paper when it was simply a consensus of opinions and suggestions to be taken on board and perhaps examined in more detail.
The Consensus was written to effect change. This was a document to enable better guidelines and the changes suggested may have been implemented within government legislation. Recommendations were made and changes could have happened. The document was sadly shelved and gathers dust. The vast divide between child protection specialists and the parent population has caused a serious failure in communication. This in turn now results in falsely accused parents. Their real plight is often undermined or discarded. Various nefarious campaigning groups have overshadowed the true suffering of those who have been wrongly diagnosed. Perhaps this consensus document could be considered by the child protection specialists, government officials and those responsible for creating current policy. A proper robust policy should be developed to enable the protection of the child and the protection of the parent – equally.