Munchausen's Disease is a complex psychiatric condition in which a person routinely exaggerates or creates physiological or emotional symptoms to gain attention from others. Even though they may not be sick or feeling unwell, people with Munchausen's may believe or cause others to believe that they need medical care. Parents with Munchausen's Disease can transfer symptoms to their child, called Munchausen's by Proxy, such that the child is treated as though they are ill when in fact, they are perfectly healthy. This can have horrible emotional, social, and psychological consequences for these children, who must battle their subjective experiences of how they feel with their parent's confusing delusions. In Pennsylvania, Munchausen's Disease by Proxy can result in child custody battles as well as complex criminal charges.
The Child Abuse Prevention And Treatment Act
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act ("CAPTA") is a federal law that sets the minimum standards for child abuse prevention and treatment programs within The United States. The law also provides federal funding for states that must be used to fund and improve their child protective services agency. The law further provides a framework for identifying and responding to child abuse charges. In Pennsylvania, child abuse allegations are processed by ChildLine, a statewide agency that receives allegations and delegates investigations to appropriate agencies.
If ChildLine determines that urgent intervention is required, CAPTA requires Pennsylvania to implement a temporary safety plan or remove a child from their home.
Pennsylvania State Laws Regarding Medical Neglect
Pennsylvania's state laws on child abuse are expansive and found within Cons. Stat. Tit. 23 §6303 of the state's general statutes. In a broad sense, Medical neglect refers to the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide necessary medical care or treatment for a child, which could lead to serious harm or endanger the child's health. Isolating the sections that address medical abuse or neglect, some laws are summarized as follows:
- Child abuse shall include "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly . . . "fabricating" or "intentionally exaggerating" a child's symptom or disease such that it leads to a harmful medical evaluation or treatment.
- Serious physical neglect occurs when a parent or guardian repeatedly or egregiously fails to provide a child with adequate medical care.
- Child abuse further includes causing, substantially contributing to, or failing to appropriately respond to a child's mental needs or conditions such that it seriously interferes with a child's ability to participate in age-appropriate activities. Some examples of this may include a child who is so anxious, depressed, withdrawn, etc., that these symptoms chronically affect their life.
Pennsylvania state law takes allegations of child abuse and neglect very seriously, and child abuse allegations are fiercely prosecuted.
If the state can prove that you negligently or deliberately failed to provide adequate medical care for your child, including inducing unnecessary medical care due to conditions such as Munchausen's Disease, you will be convicted of child abuse. Consequences for child abuse or neglect charges range from the loss of custody or parental rights of your child to excessive fines and jail sentences.
Work With Our Experienced Criminal Law Defense Team
Because child abuse charges are fiercely prosecuted, you will need the assistance of our skilled Criminal Defense Team at The Lento Law Firm to help you not only navigate the intricate medical neglect laws but also to conduct a thorough investigation into the evidence against you. Although the state may believe that they have enough evidence to successfully convict you, we will work with you to understand your family's needs and develop a defense strategy that safeguards your constitutional rights as well as your family's best interests.