Olivia Gant managed to make most of her dreams come true before she died at age seven in 2017. It is now believed that her mother, Kelly Turner, was the architect not only of fulfilling those wishes, but also of causing the disease and even the death of the girl, benefiting economically from the whole situation. She was arrested in Colorado and faces 13 criminal charges that include first degree murder, child abuse and fraud.
According to an article published in The New York Times, an investigation showed that Turner had a history of presenting false diagnoses to doctors while blogging about his daughter's dummy diseases and requesting financial support for treatments.
Turner had told the media that the girl suffered from autism, from neurogastrointestinal encephalopathy, a tumor, seizures and dysplasia, among other conditions. Everything was documented in his blog, his GoFundMe campaigns and even in television videos that recorded the moments when the girl fulfilled her last wishes.RELATED
Doctors began to suspect possible abuse in 2016 when Turner claimed that his other daughter had received cancer treatment in Texas, something that was later proven not true.
By the time they detected that Olivia's medical conditions did not fit her medical records, she had already died in a hospice, after her mother signed a non-resuscitation order.
She is not the first mother to be blamed for inventing diseases, something called Munchausen by Power, also known as Fictitious Disorder Taxed on Another, Illness imposed by the Caregiver or Child Medical Abuse.
She herself brought up the term during the police interviews she was subjected to where she ruled out that possibility. "That has never been my case," he said.
A form of abuse
There is talk of Munchausen Syndrome when someone deliberately feigns a disease to get attention. It is very different from hypochondria when the individual really believes they have a condition. The key is in deception and methodical planning to invent / promote symptoms. It is considered a psychiatric disorder and the researcher who discovered it decided to call it that in reference to the eccentric baron of Münchhausen (1720-1797), who used to invent fantastic stories that never happened to him, such as having swum in the stomach of a whale or traveled to Moon.
But the Munchausen acquires a dangerous nuance when the person submits someone else (usually a child) to show that he has symptoms or conditions, and thus assume the role of victim or hero. There is talk of Munchausen by Power and in these cases it is no longer a disorder, but abuse. Therefore, more and more specialists prefer to avoid this term and use others that do not serve the offender to hide.
“This makes it very clear that it is a very serious form of abuse that involves abuse or neglect. Perpetrators usually spend a lot of time planning and strive to keep the secret. This behavior shows that they are no longer the 'helpless victims' of a mental disorder, but instead they are very aware of what they are doing, ”explains psychiatrist Marc Feldman to Univision News, who is considered practically a world authority in matters of Munchausen and other fictitious disorders, and has published four books and more than 100 articles about it in specialized magazines.
“These people can even delight in creating physical or medical damage as a kind of‘ medal of honor ’that talks about the success of their actions by deceiving family, friends and medical professionals,” he says.
Many times, the perpetrators have personality disorders, however, Feldman warns that when a formal psychological test is done, it does not reveal a specific pathology.
In any case, when talking about Child Medical Abuse, the focus of attention, of course, should be turned to the protection of the victim and the 'diagnosis' is made through an analysis of the facts and not simply a psychological test to the father / mother that in most cases he never recognizes the crime, which makes it impossible for him to undergo 'treatment'.
How did it take so long to realize? is the question that frequently lurks after cases like the one of the girl Olivia Gant. The problem is that cases of Child Medical Abuse are not so easy to identify. Pediatricians face the challenge of distinguishing what can be a genuine parental concern, from a large-scale medical setup.
They have a duty to try: it is estimated that health professionals will encounter at least one such case throughout their professional career, the report Caregiver-Fabricated Illness in a Child: A Manifestation of Child Maltreatment published by the American Pediatric Association (AAP).
“These cases are difficult to decipher. Only after a careful review of the situation by other specialists can someone determine that there are reasonable causes to suspect that the child is a victim ”, tells Univision Noticias Emalee Flaherty, one of the authors of the report. Currently, the AAP prefers to use the term Caregiver-fabricated Illness to reiterate that the focus should not be on the victim's motivation, but on the harm suffered by the child.
According to the report, 30% of children with invented diseases suffer from a real medical condition, making it even more difficult to identify these victims. In view of the numerous visits to different medical centers, obtaining and reviewing the medical history is not as simple as it seems.
Many times the caregiver strives to falsify the symptoms by inducing them through substances or actions that generate real medical problems that sometimes lead to death. There have been cases such as a mother who injected her non-diabetic child with insulin, or another who poisoned him with salt through a gastric tube.
Some warning signs that may indicate to the pediatrician that there is a Caregiver's Manufactured Disease are:
The diagnosis does not correspond to the medical evidence.
The symptoms are strange.
The caregiver who is suspected does not express relief or joy when told that the child is getting better or does not have a particular disease.
Inconsistent stories of symptoms that vary by observer.
The caregiver is not worried or shows unusual serenity.
Symptoms are only detected when a caregiver is present.
The brother has had an unusual illness or death.
Sensitivity to many environmental substances or medicines.
The child does not respond adequately to treatment.
The caregiver publicly requests donations because of the child's strange illness.
The incidence of Caregiver-made Disease is approximately 2 out of every 100,000 children under 16. What does the future hold after being separated from the perpetrator? "Some are surprisingly resilient and will present few long-term problems," Feldman replies, but at the same time warns that many of them may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "It also happens that they refuse to go to the doctor even when it is medically necessary because they do not want to remember the trauma they suffered," he says.
In photos: they faked their children's disease and induced symptoms in the most twisted ways
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