Libow, Schreier, & Munchausen by Proxy: Part 5 – Two Caveats

In my previous posts in this series, I introduce some pivotal researchers in the field of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP) – Dr. Judith Libow and Dr. Herbert Schreier. In my last couple of posts, I describe how Dr. Libow is a psychologist, and Dr. Schreier is a psychiatrist, and I am an epidemiologist, so all these different perspectives may color our thinking.

Before getting into their work, I want to properly contextualize it in the broader field of scientific literature. I present this as two caveats.

Caveat #1: Science Doesn’t Care about MSbP

Dear Reader, please understand that even as I talk about the “most popular” scientists in this field, it is important to remember that this field is unimportant to most of the scientific world. MSbP children are killed at alarming rates, classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) deaths, and essentially thrown away by the system, and all our evidence points to the fact that this has been happening at a galloping clip since the invention of healthcare systems.

No reduction in this rate has been attempted, measured, or demonstrated. No one is held accountable – not the parents who facilitated the murder, nor the healthcare providers who, for whatever reason, caused the lethal blows.

For these reasons, “famous” research in this field is actually very hard to access. Much of this scientific evidence is unattainable to the Proxy Project as it is “lost in time” in the digital age. Therefore, please remember that Drs. Libow and Schreier, outside of the subject of MSbP, are relatively unknown in the field of research and patient care. MSbP is their main “claim to research fame” if you can call it that (although I don’t think Drs. Libow and Schreier would themselves use those words).

Colorful test tubes

In any case, in this post, I try to do justice to their foundational work in the field of MSbP. In later posts, I contextualize this work into a broader public health perspective.

Caveat #2:  Access Issues

I’m happy to report that I live in Boston, in the Fenway neighborhood, which abuts the Longwood Medical Area, where the Harvard Harvard Medical School post cardMedical Library is situated. This generous library charges $35/day for its use if you don’t have a Harvard affiliation, and even more generously allows individuals in for free to research their own health ailments! I could not find this documented on their web page, but they told me this in person when I visited, and even let me in.

I am so grateful for this medical library’s liberal access rules. It is under those liberal access rules I am able to use the Harvard Medical Library for research on MSbP, since I am a survivor.

Next Up – 1986 Landmark Publication

In my next post, I report on Libow & Schreier’s first and landmark publication, “Three forms of factitious illness in children: When is it Munchausen syndrome by proxy?” in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

What do you think needs to be done to better advocate for MSbP victims?

Share your comments on our blog!

Image of Harvard Medical School from the Boston Public Library (which is awesome!). Test tube picture by Armin Kubebeck.



3 thoughts on “Libow, Schreier, & Munchausen by Proxy: Part 5 – Two Caveats

  1. Interesting anecdote to add, Monika, is that MSbP of course marks a failure by the health care system or provider, either in not detecting it or in perpetrating it or co-perpetrating (knowingly or not) with a parent. Thus, when I asked a medical doctor I know about the issue of access to research, he replied, “We don’t research ourselves.”
    Random thought I had.


    • Hi CE Miller! That is a good point. I think if they fail to notice the MSbP, it is simply malpractice (like missing a tumor on an x-ray, or missing an arrhythmia on an EKG). However, if they collude with the parental perpatrator, it’s child abuse. Either way, you are right, it is a failure of the healthcare system.

      I love what that doctor said: “We don’t research ourselves”. That’s why they made epidemiologists >:)


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