Copyright (c) 2002 Yeshiva University
Cardozo Women's Law Journal
NOTE: A QUESTION OF REVENGE: MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY AND A PROPOSED DIMINISHED CAPACITY DEFENSE FOR HOMICIDAL MOTHERS
8 Cardozo Women's L.J. 261
E. Selene Steelman*
On February 2, 1977, Priscilla Phillips rushed her adopted Korean infant into the emergency room at the Kaiser clinic in San Rafael, California. 2 The child, Tia, was experiencing unusual seizures. Hospital tests revealed that she had an extremely high level of sodium in her blood and vomit in her lungs. Her inability to expel carbon dioxide from her lungs damaged her central nervous system, and her little body began to contort abnormally. She died the next day. Her extensive medical history seemed to indicate that Tia, who had been found abandoned on the streets of Seoul before her adoption by the Phillips, was a sickly child. From the moment of her arrival at the Phillips home in November 1975 until her death, she had been hospitalized eight times for fever, convulsive vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration, and elevated sodium and bicarbonate levels for which there seemed to be no medical explanation. 3
Throughout the ordeal, Priscilla Phillips was a constant maternal presence at the hospital. Described as a kind and loving wife and devoted mother to Tia as well as to two biological sons, ages six and nine years old, she garnered admiration, sympathy, and praise from the hospital staff. They were impressed with her master's degree in social work and her history of service for the Marin County Health and Human Services Department as well as for religious and civil organizations. 4 They welcomed her dedication and willingness to perform nursing chores such as feeding Tia ...
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