Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Munchhausen Syndrome and Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy

Never Question Mum!

We should also pay very close attention to another syndrome when it shows up at the hospital. The syndrome, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), really means "The Baby Died and We Don't Know Why." Most Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy killings are of infants, and the vast majority of these deaths are labeled SIDS. Because sometimes babies can die for unexplained reasons, infant killings are the easiest deaths to get away with. Why? Because we hate to accuse a mother of not loving her child. Worse, we hate to accuse an innocent mother of killing her child. On the business side of things, doctors hate to get in the middle of police investigations and legal proceedings, and the hospitals they work for encourage them not to bring negative attention to their institutions. Medical examiners often rule a suspicious death as SIDS for similar reasons. It's not nice to claim the poor grieving mother killed her child, and it's easier just to label it as a SIDS death. Only when a mother kills a half-dozen of her children do the medical and legal systems finally seem willing to get involved. Can you imagine this happening with adults?

Mary Beth Tinning
Mary Beth Tinning
However, with babies, SIDS deaths have been documented over and over again as non-homicidal deaths, even if there has been proof to the contrary. Angela exhibited psychopathic behavior all of her life, and if someone investigated a SIDS victim and found the mother (or daycare provider or nurse) had exhibited psychopathic behavior, perhaps the death would be considered more suspicious and not shrugged off so easily. But the history of these caretakers is rarely examined and only becomes "relevant" if the SIDS victim is the brother or sister of a series of SIDS victims. Mary Beth Tinning was allowed to kill nine of her children before the authorities decided the deaths were not natural. What is wrong with this picture?

When the kids get older, they are rarely suffocated, but can be abused and killed by other means. The movie "The Sixth Sense," for example, showed a MSBP mother feeding her child poison until she died.

The Sixth Sense, videocover
The Sixth Sense, videocover



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