Police hunt after girl, 8, is poisoned by salt overdose

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The Independent Online

An eight-year-old girl was seriously ill in hospital last night after having apparently been poisoned with salt by someone suffering from an attention-seeking disorder.

The girl was admitted to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh last week and is being treated for an overdose of salt. Detectives are working on the theory that she is a victim of someone - probably a woman - suffering from the disorder Munchausen's syndrome by proxy.

The girl has been treated on a number of occasions in hospital recently and is said to have been seen on dozens of occasions by her general practitioner.

In cases of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, an individual may harm another in order to gain attention from health workers for themselves. It is a variation of Munchausen's syndrome which leads sufferers to feign, exaggerate, or actually self-induce illnesses.

Their aim is to assume the status of "patient" and thereby to win attention.

Overdosing with salt is very serious and can lead to diarrhoea, muscle spasms and high blood pressure. Recently a baby died after the child's parents used mashed adult food with an excessive salt content for meals.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "An eight-year-old girl is currently undergoing treatment at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Police are making inquiries into the matter."

The police are understood to be interviewing members of the girl's family in an investigation which may take some time because of the sensitivity of dealing with the syndrome, if that is, in fact, at the root of the girl's illness.

The syndrome is named after a German soldier who acquired a reputation as a raconteur of preposterous stories about his adventures as a soldier, hunter, and sportsman. From 1781 to 1783 a collection of such tales was published, with authorship generally attributed to Baron Munchausen.An English version of the tales was published in 1785 under the title Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia.