Malingering by Proxy: A Literature Review and Current Perspectives

Academic Article


  • Malingering by proxy (MAL-BP) is a form of maltreatment that involves a caregiver who fabricates or induces signs or symptoms in a child, dependent adult, or pet in pursuit of external, tangible incentives. Rarely studied, MAL-BP has an unknown prevalence, and is a challenging diagnosis for healthcare professionals. Therefore, a comprehensive computer literature search and review was conducted. The review uncovered a total of sixteen case reports of MAL-BP (eleven human, five veterinary). The motive for malingering was financial in all human cases and medication-seeking in all veterinary cases. Although the strategies employed differed among the identified cases, common themes regarding the best approach to identification of MAL-BP cases became evident. A comprehensive workup including a thorough history, physical examination, appropriate neuropsychological testing, and relevant collateral information forms the basis of an effective identification strategy. The optimal method of management is currently unclear due to a relative paucity of data and guidelines. However, management of these cases would likely include a team-based approach with a prudent assessment of safety for the proxy and a low threshold for referral to appropriate services. Long-term follow-up is essential and should be approached from a biopsychosocial perspective. Attention, research, and guidance on this topic are needed to develop further evidence-based guidelines for the identification and management of MAL-BP.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Amlani A; Grewal GS; Feldman MD
  • Start Page

  • 171
  • End Page

  • 176
  • Volume

  • 61