In this series of blog posts, I review the scientific works of Drs. Judith Libow & Herbert Schreier with respect to their writings on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP). In this post, I focus specifically on the only scientific publication the Proxy Project could find about adult survivors of MSbP. It is titled, “Munchausen by proxy victims in adulthood: a first look”, and is single-authored by Dr. Libow.
The main good about this article is that it even exists. Dr. Libow did not get much mileage out of it for her career, so it was a hard article to write, and she did it alone and got not much credit. The Proxy Project is really grateful she took this step on her own.
However, it seems it wasn’t even her idea:
Twelve adults who identified themselves as victims of childhood Munchausen by Proxy syndrome volunteered to participate in research after learning of the author’s work in this area through television or newspaper coverage. With the exception of one subject who was referred by another, all of the subjects first initiated contact.
So they wanted to be studied, and she studied them. That was nice.
What is also nice is that she included many direct quotes from them in her article. This is why we find it so useful – we can compare our own experiences to those reviewed in the article.
The main problem with the article is the main problem with all of the work by Libow & Schreier: it is unscientific. There are scientific ways to approach a series of patients and write about them, and then there are unscientific ways.
As a clear example, Libow includes a table of data about the 12 patients – but the data are not aggregated. It is basically a list of information about each patient. In earlier posts, I cover a paper by Dr. Stirling that has a scientific approach, with useful lists and an organized thought process. My opinion is that
because this scientific orientation is missing from Libow (& Schreier’s) work, the ultimate findings they report in all their articles are of limited use.
The first line of Libow’s discussion is to question us:
Even before considering the question of how representative a sample this is, we are faced with the inevitable question of whether these subjects’ stories are credible.
Dr. Libow, with all due respect: How could we have made all this bizarre shit up?
For the first time in her writing, she brings up the “selection bias” problem I review earlier. Apparently, it applies to survivors, but not to the perpetrators she studies. Hm!
Her conclusion, which has nothing to do with rescuing abused kids or treating anyone who has survived trauma, reads like psych-porn:
These findings provide a fascinating window into the personal experiences of 10 adults who report some rather extraordinary childhood experiences.
All I can say is: Asshole! Talk about being appropriated!
So what do we make of all this?
Check out my next blog post, where I reflect on this series and provide some take-home messages for adult survivors of MSbP.
How is MSbP handled in your community?
Do you know the mandatory reporting laws and policies for MSbP abuse in your jurisdiction or the healthcare facility where you work? Please comment on our blog and share your experience!