Criminal Justice

Possible Life Term for Texas Mom in Child-Surgery Abuse Case

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A Texas mother was convicted yesterday by a jury in an unusual child abuse case of putting her now 13-year-old son through at least two unnecessary surgeries, and now faces a possible sentence of life in prison during the penalty phase of the trial.

At trial, prosecutors said Laurie Williamson, 40, “took her three children to at least 500 appointments with doctors during a 10-year period and that she told the children they suffered from a rare illness and would not live past their teens,” recounts the Houston Chronicle. “When Child Protective Services took custody of the children in March 2006, officials said, they were malnourished. Two had feeding tubes and were in wheelchairs.”

The prosecution and state child welfare workers contend that Williamson has Munchausen syndrome by proxy, an unusual personality disorder in which an individual (often the mother of a child or a caregiver) fabricates or induces symptoms in another person requiring medical treatment, in order to gain attention.

However, the defense says Williamson doesn’t have the syndrome and relied on information from doctors when arranging treatment for her children.

“Perpetrators of this type of child abuse are very clever,” says Mike Trent, a prosecutor in the case. “She was very knowledgeable about the medical system. She was a nurse’s aide at one time. She simulated and fabricated the symptoms that appeared to make the surgeries necessary.”

Trent claims Williamson solicited contributions on her children’s behalf, raising about $150,000 between 2000 and 2005.

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