Compared to fathers, mothers are:
Tapes evidence of unusual mental illness, study says By Erin McClam Associated Press/Toronto Star, Tuesday, June 6, 2000
ATLANTA. - Baffled by unxplained illnesses in some children, researchers hid video cameras in 41 rooms at an Atlanta hospital. More than half the time, the videotapes confirmed doctors' fears - mothers were injecting their children with urine, switching their medication and even suffocating them to keep them sick.
The Cameras, installed over four years, helped diagnose 23 mothers with Munchausen syndrome by proxy - a mental illeness that causes parents hungry for attention or sympathy to abuse their children.
Doctors say the mental illness leads to children's deaths in about 10 per cent of cases. But they say diagnosing the disorder is difficult, and the number could be higher.
"It is just astonishing," said Dr. David Chadwick, retired director of the child protection centre at Children's Hospital-San Diego, who was not involved in the research.
"Suffocation just seems so horrible, but we've got video-tapes of that. One of these days we're going to have a video-taped episode of a child getting killed."
The researchers, whose study appears in today's issue of the journal Pediatrics, urged hospitals to use hidden cameras to diagnose Munchausen by proxy.
But some specialists call the practice an unethical invasion of privacy and say it means doctors must silently let the behaviour continue.
Munchausen by proxy is a derivative of Munchausen syndrom, in which people make themselves ill or fake sickness to get attention.
The mothers in the Atlanta study went to extreme lengths to deceive doctors.
In one case, specialists could not explain a child's recurring E-coli infections. Cameras caught the mother injecting her own urine into the child intravenous line.
In another a mother gagged herself and vomited, then told doctors that the vomit was her child's.
The mothers told outrageous lies to doctors and to relatives they spoke with on hospital phones.
One woman invented seizures her child never had.
Police were informed of the videotaping beforehand, and many of the mothers were arrested on charges of abuse and other offences.
The study did not release details of the criminal cases.
The authors say cameras can be lifesavers for children.
Though critics raise privacy issues, the researchers say privacy rights are often compromised in hospitals.
Mother Convicted Of Prostituting Teen Daughter, KXAS-TVDallas/Fort Worth, TX
DALLAS - A suburban Dallas woman has been convicted of prostituting her 14-year-old daughter to finance her own drug habit. Athena Stoddard was convicted yesterday of compelling prostitution and enabling sexual assault. A Dallas County state district judge returned the verdict against the 44-year-old Irving woman after hearing testimony from the daughter.
State District Judge Mark Nancarrow sentenced the woman to 20 years in prison on each of two pimping counts and 35 years on each of the three assault charges. He's considering a prosecution request that the sentences be served consecutively.
Prosecutors submitted evidence that the girl suffered internal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases from the assaults. They say the girl was raped by 100 to 150 men over several months -- and that Stoddard charged the men from $20 to $50, depending on the type of sex demanded.
The girl ran away from home last fall and flagged down a police officer. She's now living with her father.