Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Munchausen's Syndrome Definition:

An acute but fabricated illness supported by a dramatic history of some plausibility.

Related Terms: Factitious Disorder, Factitious Disorder by Proxy, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD or ADD

In a 2011 of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Campbell v. McDougall, Justice G. Gaul reiterated expert opinion before the court, in using these words in his judgment at ¶26:

"Münchausen’s syndrome (is) a condition in which a person intentionally fakes, simulates, worsens or self-induces an injury or illness for the main purpose of being treated like a medical patient."

"The so-called Munchausen syndrome", wrote Justice Grodin of the Court of Appeals of California in The People v Phillips, is one "in which a patient beguiles a physician into performing unnecessary diagnostic and surgical procedures on the basis of false reports of symptoms."

Munchausen's_SyndromeBrown and Scheflin, writing in the Journal of Psychiatry and Law Journal, proposed this brief history and description of the mental disorder:

"In 1951 Asher1 coined the term Munchausen's syndrome, after a German baron well known for telling fantastic tales. Asher defined Munchausen's syndrome as an "acute (fabricated) illness supported by a plausible and dramatic history." He characterized the condition in terms of an "intense desire to deceive everybody as much as possible . . . based [on a] desire to be the centre of interest and attention." According to Asher, the medical report of the Munchausen's patient is "largely made up of falsehoods and fantasy," and the most remarkable feature of the illness is its senselessness.

"Bursten2 was the first to attempt an early clinical description of the disorder. Such patients embark on a "life perpetually in search of hospitalization and instrumentation." He described three major features of the condition: (1) a dramatic presentation of one or more medical complaints; (2) pseudologia fantastica, or falsely elaborating symptoms and histories; and (3) wandering from clinic to clinic and from doctor to doctor. Bursten emphasized that such patients essentially are imposters, who defend against a sense of inferiority by avoiding their true identity and by assuming false roles."

In Ramona v Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Justice Ortega of the Court of Appeals of California wrote of "Munchausen's syndrome by proxy":

"...Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition whereby a parent secretly causes the child's illness in order to attract attention or sympathy."

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