September 09, 2007

Evil by Any Other Name

Who hasn't heard about the sad case of the little English girl Madeleine who mysteriously disappeared in Portugal and whose parents have lately become suspect of having killed her. And who hasn't wondered about the somewhat over-developed zeal of those parents, the mawkish display of the little girl's cuddly toy included. Not that zeal in the face of such a horror isn't basically understandable, but it's not what other parents tend to do in similar circumstances and, sadly, Madeleine's is by no means an isolated case.
British doctors believe it is extremely unlikely for parents - especially doctors such as the McCanns – to give a child an overdose of regular medicines intended to sedate children.
I wonder whether British reporters are really that naive to print such a drivel and British doctors are either fools or trying to keep their name clean or both. Who said that doctors are better and more ethical people or parents than anybody else? Parents are killing their children all the time and even more parents are taking illegal means if they don't want to be bothered by their children for a while. The dumb tie them to their beds or just lock them up and leave them to their own devices if they are living in a neighbourhood that allows for such a behaviour, the more sophisticated apply sedatives. The girl's parents are doctors, so they thought they could get away with it. But this beats it all:
If they were [fooling everyone], it would be a truly extraordinary effort. “It is very difficult for two people to lie over a death, whether it was accidental or deliberate,” said Mike Berry, senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University. “I cannot see how they would be able to keep up a lie for so long under this media attention.”
What if the media attention was not circumstancial evidence for the innocence of the parents, but a means in itself for the perpetrator(s)? Anybody remembers Marybeth Tinning who was inordinately unlucky in raising children because nine of them died over the course of 13 years? When she was finally found out, she was blamed for a lesser degree of homicide through her "depraved indifference to human life." In any civilised society that would increase her guilt, not lower it.

Tinning, too, while nine of her children died, was only ever convicted of one case of murder because there wasn't sufficient evidence for the others.

But surely the father of those children must have suspected something?

Husband and father Joseph Tinning was somewhat bemused.
In newspaper interviews, he admitted occasional suspicion of his wife, but had managed to push it aside. "You have to trust your wife," he said. "She has her things to do, and as long as she gets them done, you don't ask questions."
She got them done indeed.

And of course she got what she craved most, attention and praise for the "care" of her children.

If those perpetrators hadn't been female they would have been labelled simply evil. As they are, there is a long name now for it: Münchhausen by proxy syndrome.

Do we have a case of high-level Münchhausen by proxy syndrome here? Surely rubbing shoulders with David Beckham, Joanne K. Rowling and Pope Benny is not everyday stuff for a nondescript middleclass couple? I guess it doesn't make any difference to the dead child, but if little Madeleine was killed by somebody outside her own family it would be somehow less monstrous.