Daily Israel Report

Psychiatrist Debunks Claims that Mom Suffers from Munchausen

A psychiatrist concluded that the mother suspected of starving her son is fit to stand trial and doesn’t suffer from Munchausen by Proxy syndrome.
By Avraham Zuroff
First Publish: 7/23/2009, 7:54 AM

(Yitzchok Russek / Topshot

Hareidi-religious protests in Jerusalem that prompted an inquiry in the arrest of a mother alleged of child abuse got results: A Jerusalem psychiatrist debunked a hospital's claim that a mother accused of starving her child is suffering from a mental illness and dangerous to her child. The news throws a monkey wrench in an episode that was accompanied by violent protests, burning trash and growing suspicions of the hareidi-religious public towards medical and government agencies.

A Jerusalem district psychiatrist concluded that the Jerusalem mother suspected of starving her son is fit to stand trial and doesn’t suffer from Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, Voice of Israel government radio reported. Dr. Yaakov Weil, who examined the mother, also determined that the mother isn’t dangerous to her child. Officials of the hareidi-religious Eida Hareidit organization were satisfied by the results and said that what now remains for the mother is to prove her innocence in court.

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court will deliberate 11:30 a.m. Thursday regarding the psychiatrist evaluation and discuss whether to extend the mother’s house arrest. They will hear the psychiatrist’s and police opinion before deciding the next step.

The psychiatric report criticized a Hadassah hospital pediatrician's decision to diagnose the mother as suffering from a mental illness. “How is it possible that a pediatrician diagnosed the mother with Munchausen, as opposed to a psychiatrist? She hasn’t even undergone a psychiatric exam at the hospital,” the report stated.

Sources from the Hadassah Medical Center stated that they would only respond to the psychiatric evaluation after they review it.

About a hundred hareidi-religious demonstrators protested in front of the home of Dr. Yair Birenbaum, the director of Hadassah, demanding to know why the hospital suspected the mother might be starving her child.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told Voice of Israel government radio that there isn’t justification for the mother’s house arrest. He also affirmed that the Health Ministry will investigate any claims that it receives of any failure of the health system, including allegations against Hadassah Medical Center.

Several days ago, Litzman posted 200,000 shekels ($50,000) bail on the mother’s behalf to guarantee that the mother would be evaluated by a Jerusalem district psychiatrist. Litzman was relieved when the expectant mother showed up for her court arraignment – a day late – due to her not feeling well.

The mother, a hareidi-religious woman, was arrested after hospital officials saw her, on a hidden camera, remove a feeding tube from her severely underweight three-year-old child. She claims that she was trying to feed her son solids. Family members accuse Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center of framing the mother to cover-up medical malpractice of a child who has been under their care for the last two years, without his condition improving. Hospital officials responded that the child began gaining weight since the mother’s arrest prevented her from harming her son.

The mother’s subsequent arrest last week prompted violent demonstrations in hareidi-religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The mother was placed under house arrest since Friday on condition that she would agree to undergo psychiatric examinations to rule-out Munchausen on Proxy syndrome, a mental illness in which a person causes harm to a family member in order to gain attention.