Mother fights for return of daughter

Bizarre family battle

Mother fights for return of daughter

By Kirsty Joosen and Nadia Miraudo





This article was previously published in the Sunday Times (Perth, Australia),
August 31, 2003.






A MOTHER accused of intentionally inflicting a lifetime of sickness on her daughter -- now a state ward -- is fighting to get her back.


The woman, from the South-West, is accused of making her daughter ill, keeping her malnourished, tampering with her intravenous drip while in hospital and overdosing her with pain-killers.


The local hospital has treated the 18-year-old 143 times.


She has also been treated at PrincessMargaretHospital, which has five "fat" files documenting severe unexplained vomiting and constipation, epilepsy, sleep disorders, stomach ulcers and attention-deficit disorder.


She has had two operations to correct a rotated bowel.


At 15, the emaciated girl weighed just 26kg.


Her illnesses have delayed her development and medical tests show she now has a mental and physical age of about 13 1/2.


Several doctors believe her mother has the extremely rare Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy -- a condition that causes a person to fabricate illnesses and inflict damage on others in their care, usually their children, in an effort to draw attention to themselves.


The disorder is so rare, it is estimated there are only two cases in WA each year.


The girl was made a ward of the state in November 2002 after a Children's Court magistrate heard one of the most bizarre cases in WA's legal history.


The court was told an investigation by the Department for Community Development substantiated child maltreatment allegations.


Hospital notes claim the mother reduced her daughter's nasal-and-stomach tube feeds while in hospital and interfered with her drip.


The former head of the PMH psychiatry department who is now a South-West child psychiatrist appeared as a witness.


He said that after reviewing the documents he was "more and more convinced that this was indeed a case of Munchausen by proxy . . . based on what really is a very unusual set of documents, a very unusual set of circumstances with quite bizarre and varied illnesses which would be extremely difficult to explain in any other way".


He said: "It would be extremely difficult for that to be in any way interpreted as due to naturally occurring illness."


The girl's pediatrician said he believed the teenager would have died unless the fluid intake through her tube was increased -- a suggestion her mother rejected because she believed it would cause her daughter to vomit. However, he said this was not the case when the feed was increased while she was in hospital.


PMH pediatric gastroenterologist Catherine Mews gave evidence that the girl's condition improved whenever she was in hospital but deteriorated after she had been discharged.


During her evidence Dr Mews told the court she did not think the mother was the cause, or blameworthy, in relation to the girl's condition.


PMH social worker Kirsten Robinson told the court the mother was "completely resistant" to encouraging the girl to eat.


The magistrate concluded that since the girl had been removed from her parents' care she had gained weight and had been eating and drinking well.


"Back in the year 2000 a very experienced specialist, Dr Mews, decided, having reviewed the papers, that (the girl's) mother did not suffer from that problem. I find that that is not the case now based on the evidence," the magistrate concluded.


"The situation may have existed since the child was three. I am surprised that her general practitioner did not pick up the problem. I am terribly sad that nothing has been done for such a long period.


"I find that (the girl) is not strong enough to look after her own interests when her mother is involved and that her father as shown in the witness box is nowhere near a match for his wife."


But the mother denies claims she has the syndrome and has mistreated her daughter. "They had been telling me and my husband so many things for so many years. Telling us what was wrong with her, what wasn't wrong with her and putting her on different medications. Trying this, trying that," she said.


"Then they turn around and say there was nothing wrong with her, that I was causing it all. I've got to go through my whole life being accused of having a disease, of trying to kill my daughter.


"We're not able to give her the love and the caring we want to give her for something they can't even prove."


The daughter is one of just two West Australians over the age of 18 in state care.


Under the Child Welfare Act, a person can be kept in care until 21, after which the Department for Community Development can apply to the Guardianship and Administration Board to keep that person in care.


The mother was questioned by detectives but was never charged.


The mother's lawyer said the daughter should not have been taken from the family because the allegations had not been proven.


He said no one could explain why the teenager was thriving now that she was living in foster care and her parents were banned from seeing her.


The mother said she was considering applying for the wardship to be dropped.


"I'm going to keep fighting. I don't care, I'll fight until I die," she said.




“We Know You Hurt Your Kids".
Parents across the U.K. say that false child-abuse claims have destroyed their lives
Bu Aisha Labi


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