July 11, 2005

Munchausen By Internet - People Who Fake Diseases Online

From a Wired article:

Kaycee was a 19-year-old Kansas woman who chronicled her painful battle against leukemia on a Web log. The site elicited a sympathetic following of well-wishers, who collectively grieved over Kaycee's death on May 15.

When it was revealed that Kaycee was actually 40-year-old Debbie Swenson, a very-much-alive homemaker in Peabody, Kansas, The New York Times declared it an elaborate Web hoax.

From an article by Dr. Marc D. Feldman:

I coined the terms "virtual factitious disorder" (Feldman, Bibby, & Crites, 1998) and "Munchausen by Internet" (Feldman, 2000) to refer to people who simplify this "real-life" process by carrying out their deceptions online. Instead of seeking care at numerous hospitals, they gain new audiences merely by clicking from one support group to another. Under the guise of illness, they can also join multiple groups simultaneously. Using different names and accounts, they can even sign on to one group as a stricken patient, his frantic mother, and his distraught son all to make the ruse utterly convincing.

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