There is a phrase which can be used to describe someone who is looking after someone but has sinister motives they want them to get unwell or more unwell than they already are, because they want attention from other people at the expense of their ward.


It's terrible what they found out about Jack, a typical example of ......... can you believe he wanted Sally to get more ill all the while he was meant to be looking after her?

I'm certain it exists, I just can't quite place it.

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    It may be Munchausen by Proxy. Anyone can use this as an answer with my blessing -- I am preparing for a trip and am swamped.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 1:45
  • @ab2 That's exactly it. Thank you, have a nice trip!
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 1:48
  • @ab2 "can use this as answer eith my blessing..." Simply superb! Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 3:36
  • The full terminology - I believe - is Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


This syndrome is called Munchausen by Proxy (as mentioned by ab2 in the comments).

Its name is derived from the Munchausen syndrome where a patient feigns or exaggerates having diseases him/herself; Munchausen refers to the literature character Baron Munchausen, who was based on a real-life baron who exaggerated a lot of stories about his military time.

The 'by proxy' part indicates the person having the disorder is using the person in their care as a 'substitute' instead, for feigning (or actually inflicting) the disease.

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    Curiously, I got a question about this in a pub-quiz a week ago.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 8:23
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    ... which was in turn copied from the comment?
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 8:37
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    Perfect Glorfindel, now the answer is recorded for prosperity, and very interesting about the etymology, well done that man!
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 9:38
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    @EdwinAshworth that option occurred to me, but since 1) I knew the answer myself 2) providing some context was more than half of the work here I chose not to do that.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 14:25
  • 1
    I much prefer the fact that Glorfindel answered the question. I actually think Edwin's original comment was rather rude towards Glorfindel, added nothing by way of value to the question, and served no purpose. I also learned about the etymology of the phrase which was nice.
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 15:21

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