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I have been accused of lying about my child's illness - what does this mean?

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FII stands for “Fabricated or Induced Illness” and it occurs where a parent or carer of a child exaggerates or causes a child to present with symptoms of an illness. FII is considered as a rare form of child abuse with the mother of a child being responsible in more than 90% of reported cases[1]. This is often referred to as “Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy” as the person is exaggerating symptoms of an illness or inducing them on behalf of or to another person.

The child may presented by their parent as unwell when they are healthy to medical professionals by fabricating or exaggerating symptoms and this may cause the child to undergo intensive investigations or treatment for conditions that they do not have. It is also possible for a parent to manipulate test results or induce symptoms within the child. The impact of FII can mean that the child is at significant risk of physical or emotional harm and the child themselves may believe that they are unwell. Further harm may be experienced by the child when they are informed that they are not unwell and do not need to engage in medical treatment any further.

Whilst not exhaustive, the following are a number of indicators of FII such as:

  • the child’s symptoms do not improve after medical treatment
  • when one health problem is resolved, the parent begins reporting a new set of symptoms
  • the child’s medical history does not correlate to their symptoms
  • the child presents as well when not in the care of the parent or carer
  • the parent tells various professionals differing stories of the child’s needs
  • the parent becomes abusive or argumentative if their views are challenged about their understanding of the child’s symptoms
  • repetitive trips to the GP or hospital seeking advice around their child’s health and this can include attending different hospitals each time or changing GP’s often
  • there is an obvious difference between the actions of the children

If a person, usually a health professional, becomes concerned that FII is occurring, safeguarding procedures can be implemented to protect the child from the risk of harm / further harm and the Local Authority will become involved. Within a healthcare setting, the case will usually be referred to a community paediatrician for them to examine the medical evidence and form a chronology to determine if there is an explanation for the child’s symptoms or the diagnosis that the parent had disclosed. The case may also be referred to the police to investigate the case.

When the Local Authority become involved, they need to determine the difference between a parent who is overly anxious about their child’s health and those who are exhibiting behaviours that are not proportionate.[2] If the case proceeds to care proceedings, the child may be removed from their parent or carer due to the risk that is posed. The Court may hold a hearing called a Fact Find Hearing to determine the circumstances around FII if the parent does not admit that they have exaggerated or induced illness in their child.

If you have Local Authority involvement with your children at Child Protection level ranging through to Care Proceedings in the Family Court then Emery Johnson Astills can assist you. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement and we have in-depth knowledge of FII and can advise you in relation to this. Please contact Emery Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on careteam@johnsonastills.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.