Munchausens as a Defense

Munchausen’s; Sick, Insane, Guilty, or Just a Good Liar?

In short, Munchausen is a mental disorder people develop to gain the attention given to those who are sick or dying. The afflicted are more than happy to undergo painful tests to gain sympathy and attention. This in a sense is a story, or lie if you will, developed to aide in the whole charade.

Could it be that this is an underlying cause for recent mother child murders? The public tries desperately to comprehend the idea that a mother, heart and soul of every family, can take the life of her own child. Elaborate lies are developed by these mothers to cover their murderous acts. They are believed to be habitual liars but this too can be thought of as a Munchausen symptom.

Munchausen has been used as a defense and been successful (Adamson, 2000). The question is; has this success opened the door for other mothers, with more murderous and selfish reasons in mind, to use Munchausen as an excuse? Not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but insane are some common alternatives to murder in the first. The sentences hold some drastic differences.

The insanity plea usually draws a sentence that requires confinement to a mental facility for various amounts of time and supervisional release. The problems and controversy develop when defense lawyers successfully use this defense strategy to secure a more desirable incarceration for undesirable criminals. So who is the abuser, the lawyer or the accused?

Murder in the first carries a sentence of 25 years to life. In some states the death penalty is used. The opinion on this sentence varies according to ones stance on the death penalty. The mentally ill can not be executed (Findlaw, 2009)). Munchausen is considered a mental disorder. However, “Munchausen by Proxy” is considered a form of maltreatment rather than a mental disorder. The children are the victim and the mother is the perpetrator.

Like most unusual or incomprehensible situations too little is known about Munchausen’s. If illness can be feigned to the point of submitting to torturous pain, than the ability to lie goes hand in hand. Lying is part of a criminal’s ‘modus operandi’. Are Munchausen patients mentally ill or criminals with the ability to fool even the most experienced doctors? And, are good defense lawyers the ace in the hole that these patients rely on to accomplish their acts?

For the general public Munchausen’s is a possible answer. An answer to the unthinkable acts of murder mothers commit on their own children. But in that answer lays another truckload of questions including, ‘who can answer the questions’?

Adamson L (2000). ‘Munchausen’ mother cleared of murdering baby daughter. In The Sunday Herald Retrieved January 3, 2009 from:

Findlaw (2009). Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). In Findlaw for Legal Professionals Retrieved January 3, 2009 from:


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