The investigation into a young mother facing a murder charge in the death of her 5-year-old son includes a focus on Munchausen by proxy, a psychiatric illness in which parents create illness in their child for attention or sympathy, a diagnosis that one New York doctor says is difficult to make.
Peter Silver, MD, Chief, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center
says the first order of business is to take a sick child through all the normal tests for an accurate diagnosis. At some point, after all the testing is done, if it all still doesn't "make sense," other factors need to be addressed.
"It is not the intent of these parents to harm their children," said Dr. Silver
, who has no first-hand knowledge of this sensational case that unfolded in Rockland and Westchester counties.
Ms. Spears pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter state Supreme Court in White Plains, NY
He says that parents (generally young mothers) suspected of suffering from this illness have several characteristics in common, such as coming from a medical background, seeking attention and in some cases publicity, and being very familiar with medical jargon.
Noting that Munchausen by proxy accounts for less than 1 percent of child abuse cases in this country, Dr. Silver said that parents diagnosed with the disorder must undergo extensive therapy but "it is a difficult cure to achieve."