Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a victim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, was released from prison on December 28, 2023, for the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard.

Throughout Gypsy’s childhood, Dee Dee claimed her daughter was unwell and made her undergo a series of medical diagnoses. She feigned and induced illness to support her claims concerning her daughter’s health. Gypsy had to endure several unwarranted medical interventions such as the use of a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy claim, a feeding tube, a litany of medications, shaving off of her hair by her mother to support the lie that she was diagnosed with leukaemia and multiple surgeries which included the removal of her salivary glands.

Dee Dee fabricated her daughter’s ill health for attention and sympathy, she wanted to be seen as a caregiver. When the results of medical tests conducted on Gypsy came out inconclusive or contrary to her mother’s claim concerning her health, her mother would stop going to the medical institute or seeing any doctor that questioned her daughter’s health. Dee Dee could accurately describe symptoms and also gave drugs to her daughter to mimic certain conditions due to the nurse’s training she had. She was perceived by all who knew her as a loving and devoted mother who had her daughter’s best interests at heart.

Up until her murder in 2015, Dee Dee did several questionable things such as convincing individuals that her daughter who was about 19 years old at the time was a minor, altering her birth certificate, physically restraining her, preventing her from social interaction to avoid leaking her secret and psychologically manipulating her into believing that she was truly ill. Eventually, Gypsy grew tired of her isolated lifestyle and was able to join a dating site, where she met Nicholas Godejohn and, having figured out what was going on, they both planned the murder of her mother.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy – also known as factitious disorder imposed on another -is a mental illness in which an individual gives care to a person (a child or dependent) as though there is a medical condition which requires medical attention. It involves making false medical claims about the dependent and inducing ill health.

Individuals with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy want to be seen as caregivers, to gain sympathy, attention given to families of individuals living with medical conditions and to be seen to have devotion for dependent’s care through hospitalizations and following through with all medical instructions given.

These individuals are known to be very cooperative and friendly with healthcare providers and they also appear to be very concerned about their dependent’s health. They may also present with other characteristics such as:

  • A child with one or more medical problems that do not respond to treatment.
  • Physical or laboratory findings that do not tally with the patient’s presentation.
  • A parent who appears medically knowledgeable or seems to enjoy the hospital environment.
  • A highly attentive parent who is reluctant to leave their child’s side.
  • A parent who appears unusually calm in the face of serious difficulties in their child’s medical course while being highly supportive and encouraging of the physician, or one who is angry, rude to staff, and demands further interventions.
  • The signs and symptoms of the child’s illness often resolve in the parent’s absence.
  • A family history of similar or unexplained illness or death in a sibling.
  • A parent with symptoms similar to their child’s medical problems or an unusual illness history.
  • A suspected emotionally distant relationship between parents.
  • A parent who reports dramatic, negative events, such as house fires or accidents, that affect them and their family while their child is undergoing treatment.
  • A parent who makes self-serving efforts for public acknowledgement of their abilities.
  • A child who inexplicably deteriorates whenever discharge is planned.
  • A child that is overly articulate regarding medical terminology and their disease process for their age.
  • A child that presents with a history of repeat illness, injury, or hospitalization.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is often seen in mothers but fathers can also be involved as well. More often than not those with the condition might have knowledge of the medical field to induce symptoms.
Several factors are believed to play a role in the development of this disorder:

  • History of abuse
  • Neglect as a child
  • The early death of a parent
  • Stress

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is considered a form of child abuse and if not dealt with early enough can lead to continued abuse, undergoing several unnecessary and painful medical procedures, multiple hospitalizations and sometimes even death -of the patient and in rare cases where the tables turn, of the perpetrator of the abuse. It is important to separate the child from the caregiver and subject both to therapy.

Unfortunately, as the condition is one involving a great deal of pretence and subversion, the responsibility of putting a stop to the mistreatment and rescuing of the child lies heavily on the observation skills of healthcare personnel.

Akinkuebi Oluwayomi


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