By DUNCAN GARDHAM, Daily Mail
femail.co.uk - 27th February 2004
A number say they have been accused of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy - deliberately harming their children to draw attention to themselves.
The row comes with the Government facing accusations of mounting a witch-hunt against Andrew Wakefield, the doctor whose study first suggested a link between the triple vaccine and autism.
Legal aid has also been cut off to more than 1,000 families fighting for compensation from vaccine makers.
Threats to parents
Law firm Alexander Harris, representing the families, said it had heard several reports of threats to use Munchausen's against parents who complained about vaccine damage after seeing other families do so.
Child psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown, who specialises in treating children with autism, said she had dealt with more than 20 such cases.
She said yesterday: "It has become increasingly obvious to me that a very high percentage of parents with children who are autistic or have disorders on the autistic spectrum are being accused of this.
"Those who are more vocal in terms of complaining about vaccinations get more stick. At first, it was just certain social services departments but it is now pretty widespread - people want them to keep quiet."
Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy
Munchausen's was discovered by controversial paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow, whose credibility has since been severely damaged by the rejection of his theories on cot deaths. There is now grave doubt whether the syndrome really exists.
A spokesman for the Association of Directors of Social Services said he would be shocked if social workers had been behaving as alleged.
He added: "It is not part of social workers' remits either to encourage or discourage MMR and there is increasing doubt over the validity of diagnoses claiming Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.
"Social workers do, however, have a legal obligation to investigate cases referred by other professionals."
Wary of social services
Bill Welsh, chairman of the anti-MMR campaign group Action Against Autism, said he had warned parents to be wary of social services.
He added: "When parents go back to doctors time and again with a child who seems to have behavioural problems or to be in pain, they start looking at the mother. Mothers have been blamed for autism since the 19th century and it is breathtaking that this is still happening today."
One mother who came under suspicion was 41-year-old Mary Robinson from Cornwall. Five of her six children are autistic.
She said: "MMR was the crux. Until then, I never had any problems with social services. Then they said I was an inadequate person and needed my children to have something wrong with them to function."
It was eight "nightmare" weeks before social workers admitted she had done nothing wrong.
Last week it was claimed that Dr Wakefield had an undeclared conflict of interest when his original research was published. The General Medical Council has launched an inquiry.