Disordered Mother or Disordered Diagnosis?: Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome

Disordered Mother or Disordered Diagnosis?: Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome

by David B. Allison, Mark S. Roberts
     
 

Disordered Mother or Disordered Diagnosis? begins with a thorough review of the original literature on Munchausen patients, from which authors David Allison and Mark Roberts demonstrate in detail how, psychiatric descriptions of this alleged condition have been thoroughly circular. The label "Munchausen Syndrome" never denoted a coherent Syndrome: from

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Overview

Disordered Mother or Disordered Diagnosis? begins with a thorough review of the original literature on Munchausen patients, from which authors David Allison and Mark Roberts demonstrate in detail how, psychiatric descriptions of this alleged condition have been thoroughly circular. The label "Munchausen Syndrome" never denoted a coherent Syndrome: from its "discovery" it has served as a catchphrase for chronically and disagreeably ill patients who share nothing beyond an ability to confuse and eventually antagonize their physicians. With the new MBPS variant, the unity of a "Syndrome" again follows entirely from medical suspicion about a heterogeneous population of disadvantaged mothers and chronically ill children.

Yet, if the diagnosis is an artifact, it is not without serious social implications. Their final chapter reviews the celebrated case of Yvonne Eldridge to show how the application of this specious diagnostic category may lead to the forcible removal of children from the home over the protests of already disempowered mothers. Seeking to regain custody of their children, mothers accused of MBPS face long, uphill legal battles in which they are confronted by "expert witnesses" who rely on a wholly circular and self-justifying literature. This extraordinary situation invites comparison with the grievous institutional follies of other eras, to wit, the accuser's power of attribution in the prosecution of witches in early modern history and the physician's authority to diagnose and treat hysteria in the 19th century.

Passionately written and possessed of rare historical breadth and intellectual clarity, Disordered Mother or Disordered Diagnosis? is a powerful wake-up call for the medical, psychiatric, and legal professions. It is essential reading for clinicians and feminist scholars, for social historians, sociologists, and jurists, indeed for all who care about the plight of disadvantaged mothers and the rights of medical patients in our society.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Medical Association
[T]he authors do a remarkable job in deconstructing the syndrome. Overall, theirs is a book well worth reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780881632903
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
10/12/1998
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are saying about this

Paula J. Caplan
Allison and Roberts write in lucid prose that makes reading and learning about the important and appalling subject a pleasure...This book is essential reading both for its own sake and because it beautifully illustrates dangerous workings of a largely unchallenged, hegemonic mental 'health system.' Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., author of They Say Your Crazy: How the World's Most Powerful Psychologists Decide Who's Normal

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