Falsely Labeling Parents
"Once that parent has been labeled 'mentally disordered' by a psychologist, child welfare doesn't have to prove the parent actually did anything wrong. In the complete absence of any evidence of parental wrongdoing, that psychiatric label is sufficient justification to seize the child." (See "The War on Families," page 11.)
Farber noted, "You're not going to find a psychologist or psychiatrist say anybody is mentally healthy — except for themselves and their friends and buddies."
Rusty Roska was plagued by serious physical problems, but those problems went undiagnosed and untreated, while Salt Lake City psychologist Eric Yelsa reportedly badgered him with such comments as "We know you're psychotic" and such questions as "You want to kill your family, don't you?"
When Utah's Division of Child and Family Services seized Rusty, it invoked the psychiatric label of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), which asserts a parent intentionally made his or her own child sick in order to gain attention.
In affixing the MSBP label, psychiatrists have targeted mothers in particular. Sometimes, as in Rusty's case, doctors encounter medical problems difficult to diagnose or treat; in many cases, psychiatrists have frequently and inaccurately blamed a parent, using the MSBP diagnosis.
Condemnation of this particular trumped-up "disorder" is not limited to the United States. In Australia, Dr. Helen Hayward-Brown, a sociologist, said, "Ordinary mothers and fathers are being accused of child abuse because their children have an illness that some pediatricians cannot diagnose, or the parents strongly question the doctor over the child's treatment.
"The parents are refused the opportunity to obtain a second medical opinion as this is labeled 'doctor shopping,' part of the MSBP child abuse profile — even though doctors are ethically obliged to allow it and it is a patient's right to obtain a second medical opinion."3
In the United Kingdom, Lord Geoffrey Howe, shadow spokesman for health in the House of Lords, blasted MSBP as "one of the most pernicious and ill-founded theories to have gained currency in childcare services over the past 10 to 15 years. It is a theory without science.... It rests instead on the assertions of its inventor (Dr. Roy Meadow).... When challenged to produce his research papers to justify his original findings, the inventor of MSBP stated, if you please, that he had destroyed them."4 (For news on a similar case of destruction of psychiatric research, see "Swedish Drugging Advocate Slapped Down by Courts," page 17.)
Although the MSBP diagnosis has no more scientific validity than the accusation of witchcraft did in its day, mothers such as Connie Roska have lost their children when a psychiatrist or psychologist assigned the label.
According to Roska, after the family sought medical help from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Brenda Bursch, a psychologist at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, went so far as to accuse her of slaughtering a small animal and putting the blood into Rusty's urine sample.
But after Rusty's abduction, the Roskas utilized the legal system, sued the state, and won — a triumph of justice over phony labeling. (See "Fighting Back," next page.)