Emily McDonald of Austin, Texas has been arrested for repeatedly putting feces into the feeding tube for her hospitalized 3 year old daughter. Her actions were reportedly captured on hospital surveillance cameras after hospital staff became suspicious that the only way the girl could have fecal matter in her bloodstream would be from fecal contamination from feeding tubes.
Such contamination could produce sepsis which is often fatal. The mother reportedly confessed to police that she knew she was making her daughter sick and was doing so to gain attention. Police claim she admits to putting fecal matter in the feeding tube five times since her daughter was admitted to the hospital on April 15. Given the girl’s medical history, it seems very plausible that medical abuse was what put her into the hospital in the first place.
Medical Problems Run In Family
McDonald has three children. She’s been banned from contact with any of them. Medical problems run in the family. Two of her three children were delivered prematurely. McDonald wrote about it in a 2007 newspaper column.
McDonald Shows Attention-Seeking Behaviors Associated with Mental Illness
It seems this woman has attention-seeking behaviors that could point to mental illnesses such as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP)  or various personality disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder  or Histrionic Personality Disorder . Estimates are that over 90% of MSbP abusers are female. It’s common for women with such mental health problems who medically abuse children to have backgrounds in medicine, with estimates of about 80% of MSbP abusers having involvement in medical professions. McDonald’s MySpace profile claimed she was studying for a nursing degree from the University of Texas in 2008. She also volunteered in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at Seton Medical Center Austin from July 2008 to April 2009.
The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library connect Munchausens variants with severe personality disorders:
(from Munchausen Syndrome )
Munchausen syndrome, a severe and chronic form of factitious disorder, consists of intentional production or feigning of physical symptoms or signs without an external incentive; the motivation for this behavior is to assume the sick role. Symptoms are usually acute, dramatic, and convincing and are accompanied by a tendency to wander from one physician or hospital to another for treatment. The exact cause is unknown, although stress and a severe personality disorder, most often borderline personality disorder, are often implicated.
Patients may have prominent histrionic or borderline personality features and are usually intelligent and resourceful. They know how to simulate disease and are sophisticated regarding medical practices. They differ from malingerers because, although their deceits and simulations are conscious and volitional, their behavior is not motivated by external incentives, such as economic gain. It is unclear what they gain beyond medical attention for their suffering, and their motivations and quest for attention are largely unconscious and obscure.
McDonald’s Many Blogs: A Cry for Attention Using Her Kids?
McDonald has maintained multiple blogs about the medical problems of her children, involving hundreds of other people in discussing her children’s medical problems and portraying herself as an expert on matters involving premature babies. Most of these blogs have been blocked or cancelled recently. One of them contained the following quote which raises more questions about her apparent attention-seeking behaviors:
All I ever do now is school, take care of the kids, work, go to sleep. My days are completely borring now. If I had known 5yrs ago that this is what my life would be like, I would have definitely thought twice about some of my choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and my husband but nothing exciting ever happens in my life. How I crave the adventure that is now lacking.
Public Underestimates Prevalence of Mentally Ill Moms
Sadly, mentally ill moms are far more common than the public thinks. While dads get slimed with the bad reputation for being child abusers, it is moms who are more likely to medically abuse and even kill their children. Emily McDonald is just one in a long line of mentally ill mothers.
Television Coverage of Emily McDonald Case
The McDonald Five