Protection ‘top priority' when fabricated child illness suspected

School nurse conference told authorities often focus on the reasons parents fake illness in a child, rather than protecting the young person
Fabricated illness in a healthy child

School nurses who suspect a parent is fabricating illness in a healthy child have been urged to protect the young person as a priority.

Picture: iStock

Speaking at last week’s RCN school nurses conference, Great Ormond Street Hospital honorary consultant child psychiatrist Danya Glaser said that authorities often focus on finding out why parents fabricate an illness, rather than protecting the child.

Risk of harm

Dr Glaser spoke about spotting the signs of fabricated or induced illness (FII), a rare form of child abuse in which a parent or carer exaggerates or causes symptoms of illness in a child.

She said risks to children subject to FII, previously known as Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, include:

  • Disrupted education due to school absences.
  • Feelings of confusion when their parent or carer convinces them they are ill.
  • Risk of physical harm or even death when a parent deliberately induces symptoms of illness.
Ask questions

Dr Glaser said reasons that parents fabricate illness in their child range from anxiety to fraudulent attempts for financial gain.

She urged school nurses to listen, observe, ask questions and investigate any discrepancies.

‘We must remember there is a child involved, and the harm to that child is the same regardless of parental motivation,’ she said.