Doctor Munchausen I Presume!

July, 14, 2014 | 18 Comments


  1. Against this background it is vastly troubling that Baroness Butler-Sloss, who has been called in by David Cameron to head the inquiry into child abuse, presided for a great time in the family courts where the MSbP theories of Meadow and Southall flourished. Those who call upon her to stand down because of her family and political affiliations, while insisting that she has hitherto a blemishless record, ignore the fact that most of her judicial career was conducted in secrecy, and is quite beyond scrutiny apart the known pervasive influence of unsound and corrupt theories.

  2. What an excellent article and observation. One which I know from the inside out being a sufferer of the neuro-immune disease ME for the last 44 years.

    I found this paragraph particularly apposite: “The mechanism of abuse is very PC – a prescribing cascade. When a problem develops on treatment you are put on more of the same treatment or further drugs are added in to treat the original problem and unless you have a lucky escape or have extraordinary courage the abuse keeps going until you are dead. Doctors who abuse are concealed by the fact they are doing even more of what good doctors do than their colleagues. ”

    I had a very bad ‘relapse within a relapse’ in 2004 (I had already succumbed to being ‘housebound’ in 1994). I was clearly physically very unwell. My temperature control had completely konked out (it has not recovered fully to this day) and the sensations that accompanied it were very unwelcome. Unfortunately this was seen, not as a problem of the nervous system at all, but as a psychiatric malady.. ‘catastrophising’, ‘somatising’ etc etc. Stupidly, having refused any sort of antidepressant medication in the preceding decades I agreed to try an antidepressant as I felt so incredibly ill and nothing else was on offer. One single tablet of Venlafaxine left me hallucinating and I took no more..except it also made me very depressed and tearful and so I was brought into the hub of what you describe as the ‘prescribing cascade’. I was put on and taken off all manner of drugs over the course of that year (all psyche drugs..nothing to deal with the underlying pathology at all!) : very many SSRIs and SNRIs and benzodiazapines etc. I was bedridden for all of that year.. just squirming with hideous extrapyramidal dystonic movements, akathisia and deepening suicidal depression. Yet one tiny bit of my mind still knew I wasn’t actually a depressive.. I knew the drugs were doing this to me..killing me slowly. It was my family who stopped the rot. Just said ‘enough’ more drugs and instead of deferring to my local doctors my family sourced the wonderful ‘Ashton Protocol’ from many nights of Googling and trawling online forums. Despite following that gentle protocol I felt as though I was living in a hellish Kafka-esque nightmare in trying to get off the last of the drugs..but I was right..without the drugs I wasn’t in the least depressed. I was still very unwell however..but to this day no one has tried to address that. I wonder why?
    To be frank I know why: because the disease I have is deemed not even really ‘psychiatric’ but this new fangled ‘somatising / multiple unexplained symptoms’ rubbish. Prof Simon Wessely heads up the school of thought that dismisses a serious neuro-immune disease which has a wealth of research to show problematic pathology and yet because he and his little coterie are given a little bit of power, they can and do abuse us through lack of care (biomedical research is not publicly funded in the UK because of their influence) , inappropriate care ( the NICE Guideline which is unfit for purpose was clearly designed by those who support that paradigm) and for some, actual hands on abuse where people with the disease are sectioned to locked psychiatric wards and forced to complete Graded Exercise schedules etc..). It would be wonderful if you, Dr Healy might look at this particular population, not least because it links very neatly into the theme of this article AND so many people with this disease are mis-prescribed SSRIs and other psyche drugs and often made much more unwell through that sort of prescribing. For interest you may like to read:

    Of course for me the story doesn’t end there. Ten years on and I’m still very very ill with this disease. Neuropathic pain has been added to the list of symptoms I suffer. Along with that I now have a medical history which says I suffer ‘depression’ and yet this is completely untrue. I have suffered very very severe iatrogenic harm, which manifested as severe suicidal depression caused by the prescribing cascade. But for ever more I will be deemed as having a psychiatric disease…although I suppose that is moot in as much as I suspect my primary care team to have already presumed that my diagnosis of ME is much the same!

  3. Not a bad column for Bastille Day! At least half the time, I’m sure, Dr. Munchhausen is convinced what he’s doing is for your own good … but I bet a lot of peasants heard that from the landed aristocracy too.

    • How appropriate that its Bastille Day – when stormed as I remember it the most conspicuous person found residing inside was the Marquis de Sade.

  4. Thank you. I enjoyed reading this.

    “The easiest place on this earth for an abuser to flourish is in a doctor’s office. Have a look there.”

    One of the challenges then is how to make the doctor’s office safer for the patient (without the doctor feeling insecure). We need to find ways to help shift the attitudes of doctors and patients. Education for doctors alone will not solve this concern. How can we prepare patients better for consultations with their G.P/Consultant? Of course such interventions are likely to accompany a financial cost. The challenge is making it cost effective. I wonder if it would make a difference if a mental health nurse/advocate/peer support worker was present at every consultation, or if we had CCTV/audiotapes in the clinic rooms with patient permission. We need to find ways to better inform patients. In doing so we open up the opportunities to change the doctor/patient relationship. Using digital media perhaps is one way forward. Reach out and connect to patients before they attend, in doing so we can help develop the knowledge and assertiveness skills of the patient (video links/facebook pages etc). We could even have situations where the patient can communicate with a carer/advocate/other professional using technology during the doctor consultation, to help inform their decision making whilst hearing the expertise of the doctor…..What a wonderful world it could be!


  5. Thank you David. I read this today after reassuring my new GP that I am well able to read and question the information related to the various treatment options for what ails me (in my case autoimmune vasculitis or Wegener’s but, Mr Wegener was a nazi doctor so better not mention his name) and that I rather she would communicate with me than lecture or worse, dole out her treatment in silent condescension. She smiled and shook my hand. There is hope.

  6. Dear Healy, Let us not forget Genene Jones as we also remember Harold Shipman.

    Nurse Jones was transferred (Vatican Style) from the hospital where she was making children sick (digoxin, herapin, …), in order to revive them, to another hospital where she then played the same role. Hero Nurse Jones was better at making children sick than at the reviving process. She killed an untold number along the way (the high estimate is 40+). The transferring hospital, who initially caught her red-handed, did so as an act of litigation prevention.

    Welcome to Vatican Hospital, a Nurse Priest will be with you and with your children shortly. Indoctrination is down the hall.

  7. Hi David,

    Had heard of you, but not come across your blog, so this piece comes as an excellent introduction; all the more so, because I had already come, independently, to the conclusion that most of the psychiatrists I have met with, and those who are the most prominent figureheads of the profession, are themselves guilty of MBP. The most obvious example of this is mentioned above. Whole reputations are won, as a reward for the activity of projecting psychiatric illnesses–that are only opinions after all–on to people who have no power to resist. Once a pronouncement–amounting to defamation, or libel–has been made, the unfortunate branded person, is ruined for life. Electronic media make it impossible to stop the maldiagnosis from propagating ahead of the patient, wherever he or she goes in the health system, and there is an effective denial of service to the unworthy from then on.

    I fully concur with R Cox, and have, myself, spent 3 1/2 years in mental health units after being sectioned for the alleged and unprovable crime of ‘hypochondria’. There is no way to shake off this label, because every effort you make to do so ‘proves’–in the blinded eyes of the health service–your hypochondria. The NHS Choices website, goes even further, by saying you are a hypochondriac both if you go frequently to the doctor AND if you hardly ever go (Not going means your fear for your health has made you too scared to go!).

    After plying me with antipsychotics for the 6 months period of the section–the drugs greatly reducing my capacity to read and think straight enough to do crosswords, sudoku etc–I refused any more. Like R Cox, I also found that SSRIs and SNRIs made me hallucinate–particularly around mealtimes–, so I refused any more of those as well. There was no question of me being either depressed or anxious: other than what was caused by the torture of this mistreatment while the real, and steadily worsening physical illness was being ignored. The despair that this situation creates, simply cannot be described: the psychological torture of the progressively physically ill, is the most despicable act of cruelty. Yet it comes from those whose motto is: ‘Do no harm.’

    I do hope, Dr Healy, that you will pursue this further, because it really is killing people. I was, eventually ‘discharged’ in a bedridden state, only to be hospitalised a week later with clots on my lungs. Even this was blamed on me, for not exercising: even though it had been my inability to exercise that had made me seek help from the doctors in the first place, when I was still just able to get about! They neglected and abused me into a bed-bound state, and still I cannot get my illness investigated because I have been traduced and branded for my whole life. (On top of this there is the widespread perception that, by definition, the chronically ill have lasted this long, so they can wait forever at the back of the queue!)

  8. Another insightful and articulate post Dr. Healy.

    Having once had my Seroxat side effects laughed at by my doctor, I know only too well how dangerous that unequal power-paradigm between Doctor and Patient can be..

    Thank you for being courageous and brave Dr Healy…

  9. We haven’t got very far from Susanna and the Elders.

    Commenting on the Butler-Sloss business yesterday I did not pay tribute to the importance of this article. Since biblical times and no doubt beyond there has always been a usually unequal contest of truth and lies between the abuser and the abused. David has put his finger on the precise function of Munchausen Syndrome and its variant Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy or Fabricated Illness in the modern world – a diagnosis which is as whimsical in many/most cases as declaring someone to be a witch by certain infallible tests (we recall that Butler-Sloss supported the Cleveland paediatricians who found evidence of paedophilia absolutely everywhere by performing an obscene test on children – but of course the accused were only ordinary citizens).

    The reality is that these are just ways in which the social order asserts itself dressed in pseudo-scientific garb.

    And, of course, the tale of Susanna has generally been assigned to the Apocrypha.

  10. It seems to me and many others I have spoken to, that doctors raison d’etre has been entirely forgotten, by them. They seem to think they exist solely for their own benefit and we as patients are an inconvenient nuisance. If every patient simply approached a doctor as they would a mechanic, they exist for our benefit alone and to put things the patient is the one in the ‘driving seat’ so to speak, then things might change…..
    At what point in Med School do med students have the ‘I am God’ lecture I wonder?

  11. I think Doctors should have training sessions on how to listen to and respond to patients’ needs on a regular basis throughout their practice. I think a lot seem to have forgotten they are there for the patient and not just to be listened to by the patient. They do not have a divine right.

  12. Dr. Healy describes my reality again.

    I am but a misfortuned patient, of such debilitating diagnoses as panic anxiety and depression. From one misfortuned day, back in the 1990’s, that I recieved that diagnose I was also instantly transferred into a person of low degree.
    From that day on, I was in the mercy of my doctor.
    I respected and listened to him, for long over a decade, because he is a doctor.
    I was brought up that way, a certain degree of respect was automatic along with such a fancy title as ‘doctor’. (Psychiatrist)

    Today I know he is just an ordinary human, with a title, who has also been mislead. Mislead by Big Pharma into not caring for each and every individual patient he meets. Mislead into thinking that even though I as a patient need help, should also be thankful for ANY help, even that that ruins me.

    No one likes to remove his hat in the precence of an authority that no longer posesses any authority, really.

  13. I had a pain management specialist tell me where I was feeling pain – when I was not feeling it in the areas he poked with his fingers.

    He was wanting to diagnose me with fybromyalgia, when what I have is vast nerve damage from a spinal surgery gone wrong.

    This doctor just happened to be involved in a clinical trial using Cynbalta. The condition being studied? Fibromyaliga!

  14. WOW what a delight to come across such a doctor!!!!!
    Yeah psychiatry today it is a one big industry and not many of these people really care.I am one of the examples.I have been suffering with borderline for many years,pretty deep and severe including suicidal thoughts and 1 attempt,psychotic episodes sometimes ,and all the symptoms associated with it including bulimia and anorexia.
    I was very fortunate as a teen, to find a great psychiatrist who was great psychotherapist and she literally saved my life.She offered me drugs but i have told her that they made me feel worse,so she NEVER pushed it on me.Instead, she was taking me through very deep and compassionate therapy!(which it would of been easier really to have quick fix with magic pill ha!)Before i found her i saw few doctors and always was the same story ,giving me antidepressants and sleeping tablets.I do not remember the names now ,but sleeping pills used to give me a lot of hallucinations,and my taste was changing ,my smell. Antidepressants made me feel like a zombie,they were just suppressing all the feelings i had ,yet they were not changing them.If it was not enough that i felt on another planet most of the time,them drugs made me feel much worse, i was much more confuse of who i was,still had all the feelings, but it was more uncomfortable as i could not connect with them.I very quickly realize that this is not the way…
    Unfortunately few years ago something triggered horrendous insomnia and psychotic episode.I have not slept properly in almost 5 years… i have tried some antidepressant which was not ssri. Doctor told me that it will help me to sleep.God !!!When i woke up next day i was seriously EXTREMELY suicidal!I could not move my limbs even,i could not even walk!!I could not even keep things in my hands.I could not wait until that day was over.Never EVER taken that tablet again!I have tried Zopiclone.Made me sleep, but when i woke up i felt more tired, very angry, confused and disconnected .I felt worse than when i was not sleeping.Then i have tried citalopram ,again i felt like i was behind the window watching some film.Again i start feeling suicidal and my anxiety got worse.When i went to my GP ,she told me that they work like this just at the begging ,and later they will help.I did not buy that and ask for the referral to psychiatrist.When i saw him, he just asked me about my sleeping problems and anxiety.When i wanted to tell him more about paranoia and more things that were going on ,he said, that he will refer me to psychologist and for paranoia i can go back to GP and take some pill.I do understand if he was limited with time,but he did not ask me to come back to continue,so he could have clear picture of what is going on with me and then refer me to somebody appropriate ! I have waited 6 months for appointment with psychologist (my GP was chasing for me ,as they were saying I was not even on the system) ,just to hear from her, that she can not help me ,as my problem is too complex.During this months i got really much worse.I am like a vegetable now with all BPD symptoms including suicidal thoughts.Still not as bad as after psychiatric drugs!!When i rang mental health and i have told them that i think of committing suicide ,they have asked me if i am on the system with them,when i said no ,woman on the phone told me to go back to my GP and hang up .There is a very long story about that ,so i will just make my point.I made myself very clear ,that i need a deep psychotherapy ,and it is like nobody can refer me there.I am being refer from one place to another and i am getting so much worse each day.There is maybe few health practitioners who are trying to help,but a lot of them are just one big joke..One women asked me why i just don’t get myself a job?(After me telling her that i hardly can get up from bed and , self harm and feel i suicidal)and that was a reason why i had to quit my job in a first place!!I have been offered many times drugs while i am waiting for another referral,and then maybe another referral for a sufficient treatment(which might take up to a year as i have been told. Ah!!You can always go private.If you can not afford ,who cares?) And sometimes some of them people will try and put it on me ,that i do not want drugs ,so that means to them,that i don’t want to get better(and i have mention many times that they make me feel suicidal more)as they are trying to help me but i refused!I just do not get it, HOW ON A PLANET EARTH a pill will help you get rid of your feelings ?Makes no sens!!!And i see how they will do everything just not to make you feel better!Went with my friend to psychiatrist.She is suffering with depression for many years ,and she is on antidepressants for years and that joker doctor ,she has told her to go for a walk ,to the park and she will be ok. And of course put the higher dose of antidepressants and discharged her.This is a total utter nonsense!!!And the drama is, that even if you will find a good doctor, them hands are tight as well and they can not do much ,because of THE SYSTEM!!!They have to refer you to somebody who will also refer you somewhere else ,and goes on…MONTY PYTHON .I can go on and on and on about it…
    The truth is that a lot of them so called mental illnesses are just emotional,spiritual problems, and people need compassion and understanding from good therapists not drugs!And people who are really mentally ill are does without compassion,who can help,but they do not care and chose not to!

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