Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK


Woman who 'cried wolf' dies of cancer

Munchausen's patients demand unnecessary operations

A woman suffering from a condition which made her demand unneccessary medical treatment has died - after doctors refused to believe her cancer symptoms were genuine.

Wendy Scott, 50, died of intestinal cancer at the Trinity Hospice in Clapham, London, earlier this month, and was buried on Monday.

She suffered from Munchausen's syndrome, in which physically well people invent illnesses and symptoms in an attempt to secure medical treatment.

Ms Scott, who lived in Streatham, south London, spent more than a decade travelling from hospital to hospital across Britain duping doctors into performing unnecessary procedures.

She ended up having 42 needless operations and was admitted to hospital 600 times during a 12-year period.

Eventually, her stomach was criss-crossed with scars from unneeded operations - she had even visited Europe to get treatment.

Sufferer 'cured'

However, in the late 1970s, Ms Scott said she had "cured herself" of the condition, and stopped demanding treatment.

Two years ago, she went to doctors complaining of stomach pains, but UK doctors did not carry out any investigations.

When she was taken ill while on holiday in the US, doctors diagnosed the cancer, but despite giving radiotherapy and chemotherapy, were unable to save her.

Ms Scott blamed her Munchausen's on a neglected childhood which drove her to seek attention from doctors and hospitals.

It is named after Baron Karl Friedrich von Munchausen, an 18th Century figure notorious for his tall stories.

Sufferers differ from hypochondriacs as these genuinely believe they are ill, while Munchausen's sufferers know they are not.

It is not to be confused with the controversial Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, believed by some to be a form of abuse in which mothers either invent, or even deliberately induce illnesses in children in their care to draw attention to themselves.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

19 Aug 99 | Health
Experts to study controversial abuse syndrome

Internet Links

Hypochondria and Munchausen's

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99