Caregiver-fabricated illness in a child: A manifestation of child maltreatment

Emalee G. Flaherty, Harriet L. MacMillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Caregiver-fabricated illness in a child is a form of child maltreatment caused by a caregiver who falsifies and/or induces a child's illness, leading to unnecessary and potentially harmful medical investigations and/or treatment. This condition can result in significant morbidity and mortality. Although caregiver-fabricated illness in a child has been widely known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, there is ongoing discussion about alternative names, including pediatric condition falsification, factitious disorder (illness) by proxy, child abuse in the medical setting, and medical child abuse. Because it is a relatively uncommon form of maltreatment, pediatricians need to have a high index of suspicion when faced with a persistent or recurrent illness that cannot be explained and that results in multiple medical procedures or when there are discrepancies between the history, physical examination, and health of a child. This report updates the previous clinical report "Beyond Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Identification and Treatment of Child Abuse in the Medical Setting." The authors discuss the need to agree on appropriate terminology, provide an update on published reports of new manifestations of fabricated medical conditions, and discuss approaches to assessment, diagnosis, and management, including how best to protect the child from further harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-597
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Child maltreatment
  • Child protective services
  • Covert video surveillance
  • Factitious disorder by proxy
  • Medical child abuse
  • Multidisciplinary child protection team
  • Munchausen syndrome
  • Munchausen syndrome by proxy
  • Pediatric condition falsification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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