Doctors are seeing an increase in both mild and severe cases of Munchausen syndrome through intermediaries — the condition at the center of Florida’s closely watched “Beware of Maya” trial that ended this week.
Doctors tell The Post that the increased incidence of the syndrome, where caregivers exaggerate a child’s illness to garner sympathy, is fueled by a number of factors — including social media attention, the flood of medical information available online and the erosion of trust in medicine. Foundation.
“It’s still rare, but you’re seeing it more often now,” said one Fort Myers pediatrician. “I do not take a position on the case of Maja Kowalski, one way or the other, nor on how the hospital handled the situation in general.” But it is a concern.”
Last month, Bronx mother Tajahnae Brown was arrested and charged with first-degree assault after authorities said she poisoned her 4-year-old daughter with “life-threatening” anti-seizure medication.
Investigators alleged that Brown made 190 visits to various providers to obtain unnecessary medication for her child.
In July, Texas mother and social media influencer Jessica Gasser was arrested and charged with faking her 3-year-old child’s illness and causing medical harm.
Officers said the 27-year-old gave her daughter 28 unnecessary injections and flew her to dozens of medical appointments in three states to keep up the charade.
The Fort Myers doctor said such cases are at the extreme end of a spectrum of severe parental involvement in their children’s care — from doctors’ predominance of refusing routine procedures to full-on Munchausen by proxy cases where children are at clear risk.
“People now go to WebMD and think they know what’s going on with their child,” he said. “For some people it becomes obsessive.” I see more parents resisting now than ever. That’s a real problem.”
The Jacksonville doctor echoed those sentiments, saying she’s drawing more skepticism from parents now than in years past.
“Honestly, I think a lot of it can be traced back to the COVID vaccine controversy,” she said. “There were many people who refused it.” In many cases, this puts them at odds with their doctors. I think that has led to skepticism about things other than COVID. And that’s sad. It has real consequences.”
This doctor drew a parallel between the rise of homeschooling and what she called “home healing.”
In some of the more horrific Munchausen cases, social media attention — and the potential for illicit fundraising profits — is a driving force, doctors said.
“Before, there weren’t a lot of ways for people to get something out of production or invent it,” the Fort Myers doctor claims. “That has changed now.” I have to believe that plays a role.”
While the practitioners declined to comment on the jury’s verdict in Maja Kowalski’s case, both said they hope it won’t have a chilling effect on doctors’ willingness to call on questionable parental care.
“Can hospitals mishandle cases?” said the Jacksonville doctor. “Of course. There is a lot of gray area here. But there are cases where there is a need for intervention.”
A Florida jury ruled Thursday that Maya, now 17, was wrongfully imprisoned at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Clinic in St. Petersburg, finding the facility worth $261 million.
Maja’s mother, Beata Kowalski, had doctors give her aggressive ketamine treatments for what she said was a severe neurological disorder.
The hospital referred the case to Florida child welfare authorities, and a judge later declared Maya a ward of the state.
After three months of separation from her daughter, Beata Kowalski committed suicide in January 2017.
Hospital lawyers argued that staff reported the mother out of legitimate concern for Maya’s welfare.
The family’s lawyers countered that the facility wrongly dismissed the parents’ claims that Maya suffered from chronic regional pain syndrome and that it had inappropriately isolated her.
The case was chronicled in the Netflix documentary “Take Care of Maia,” which debuted on the streaming service on June 19 and was viewed 13.8 million times in the first two weeks after its release.
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