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Medical child abuse (Munchausen syndrome by proxy)

Thomas A Roesler, MD
Carole Jenny, MD, MBA, FAAP
Section Editors
Daniel M Lindberg, MD
Jan E Drutz, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


The clinical features, diagnosis, and management of medical child abuse (MCA) with a focus on recognition and care of the affected child will be reviewed here.

Other forms of physical child abuse and neglect are discussed separately. (See "Physical child abuse: Recognition" and "Physical child abuse: Diagnostic evaluation and management" and "Child neglect and emotional maltreatment".)


Medical child abuse (MCA) refers to a child receiving unnecessary and harmful or potentially harmful medical care due to a caregiver's overt actions including exaggeration of symptoms, lying about the history or simulating physical findings (fabrication), or intentionally inducing illness in their child [1].

By contrast, acts of omission (failure to provide basic needs for a child such as food, clothing, education, and medical care) are usually labeled as "neglect." Hence, medical neglect indicates a caretaker acting in a way that a child does not receive appropriate health care. (See "Child neglect and emotional maltreatment".)

All of the following terms have been used to describe MCA [2-7]:

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 11, 2016.
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