Reviews Press

Keeping mum over child abuse

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 13 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:152
  1. Raj Persaud, Gresham professor for public understanding of psychiatry
  1. Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals, London

    Is media coverage of Munchausen syndrome by proxy putting children at risk?

    Just before Christmas the media moved rapidly to cover the sensational story of the “controversial diagnosis” of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, coverage in which the main villains of the piece seemed to be paediatricians hell bent on destroying families. This followed a statement by the attorney general that there was “cause for concern” and that appeals could be made in 28 out of 297 cases after a review of cases of children taken into care in the wake of the quashing of the Angela Cannings' conviction for murder (BMJ 2004;329: 1256).

    On 20 December the Daily Telegraph devoted a full page to a first person account by Angela Cannings, who was released from prison a year ago after the Court of Appeal overturned her convictions for murdering two baby sons. Yet what this article, and the subsequent raft of media coverage, failed to report was that the vociferous campaigners against Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and their supporters in the press, had expected that hundreds of parents who had been jailed for convictions linked to this diagnosis would be released. The attorney general's statement to parliament made it clear that this …

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