An eight-year-old boy has been to the hospital 323 times and has undergone 13 major surgeries. However, medical professionals have concluded that nothing is actually wrong with him.
Another case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy has hit the news.
If it turned out that the boy was medically just fine, why did he have hundreds of of hospital visits and more surgeries than many 80-year-olds? The boy’s mother, Kaylene Bowen, claimed that he had a milk allergy, cancer, a rare genetic disorder, and a lung transplant. Due to his mother’s myriad claims of his medical conditions, the boy was placed on a feeding tube and oxygen, confined to a wheelchair, put in hospice, and had undergone several invasive medical procedures. He has even contracted three life-threatening blood infections due to these procedures, all of which pointed to the fact that the boy was actually fine.
The child’s father, Ryan Crawford, has claimed that the mother has a condition called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which a person makes up or causes medical conditions in someone under their care.
This mother gamed the medical system.
Cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) are usually harrowing. The victims—children, the elderly, and the disabled—are always in a vulnerable position in which they would likely be unable to escape or help themselves. They may not even know that someone who should be taking care of them is actually harming them. Thus, MSBP is also a form of child abuse or elder abuse.
The case of the eight-year-old boy is particularly gripping. How, after all, does an eight-year-old have over 300 doctor’s visits and 13 surgeries without anyone catching on before now? Authorities believe that the abuse began when the boy was just 11 days old. “They doctor shop and hospital shop,” says MSBP expert Dr. Marc Feldman. “They often frequent many emergency rooms over a wide geographic area. One doctor may never know that medical procedures or diagnostic tests have already been performed elsewhere, so it happens again and again and again.
“These mothers tend to be master deceivers and liars,” Dr. Feldman added. “They’re very skilled at what they do.” Crawford has also claimed that Bowen was less willing to let him see his son the more he questioned the boy’s medical issues, which Crawford thought became more and more outlandish as time went on.
What, then, prompts caregivers and mothers like Bowen to commit such acts?
Kaylene Bowen has been arrested. [Photo by the Dallas County Sheriff's Office]
It’s thought that MSBP may be rooted in the perpetrator’s own history of abuse. However, mental health professionals aren’t actually sure about what exactly can cause this condition to develop. What we do know is that the perpetrators definitely gain something from their actions, like money, attention from others, or both. Crawford thinks that Bowen may have been after money in particular.
Dr. Feldman thinks that cases of MSBP are underreported. He also says that nine percent of reported cases are fatal, which makes it one of the deadliest kinds of child abuse.
While the boy in this case was fortunate enough to be alive and safe from his abuser, other victims have not been so lucky. The boy is now in foster care, though his father is currently fighting for custody. His mother has been arrested and charged with inflicting injury to a child.
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