Prosecutors: Munchausen by proxy syndrome possible in Valik case

CINCINNATI (NEWS10) – The sound of a baby in pain can be excruciating for any mother, but in the case of Baby Jax, the little boy with a blistering skin condition, prosecutors are blaming his mom with causing some of that pain.

Jessica Valik, of Johnstown, is accused of injecting an unknown substance into her sick son’s feeding tube.

In Ohio, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters says his office is looking into the incident as a possible case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome.

As the investigation unfolds, that term has been thrown around quite a bit, but what exactly is Munchausen by proxy?

“It is a form of child abuse,” said Dr. Frank Doberman, a family psychologist in Guilderland.

He describes the condition as a real mental disorder where a caretaker, usually a parent, fabricates or worsens a child’s illness.

“It comes from the fact of someone trying to exaggerate symptoms in a child usually motivated by a desire to gain attention for themselves,” Dr. Doberman said.

The exact cause of the condition is not known, but Dr. Doberman says doctors have some ideas.

“There may have been in the history of those individuals, some form of trauma, some form of abuse themselves,” he said.  “For some individuals the course of their life becomes just saddened and in trying to bring an element of meaning to their life they create this fantasy about their child.”

Treatment can be complex.

“You’re probably talking about the entrance into a significant array of both pharmacological talk therapy, cognitive therapy, which focuses directly on thoughts and changing thoughts,” he said. “I can tell you this is not a short term project.”

And neither is the investigation into baby Jax’s care. Valik has not been officially diagnosed with Munchausen by proxy syndrome, but its something prosecutors continue to bring up and look into.

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