A father is fighting for custody of his son after his mother's arrest for injury to a child. According to KVUE, 8-year-old Christopher Bowen of Dallas has been hospitalized 323 times and undergone 13 major surgeries. He has also received treatments — including hospice care and being confined to a wheelchair— but authorities believe he seems healthy and that the illnesses may have been concocted by his mother, Karen Bowen-Wright.
Investigators believe this may be an incident of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological disorder in which a caregiver, in this case the mother, invents an illness even though there is no need for medical care.
“They doctor shop and hospital shop,” explained expert Dr. Marc Feldman of people with this disorder. “They often frequent many emergency rooms over a wide geographic area. One doctor may never know that medical procedures or diagnostic tests have already been performed elsewhere, so it happens again and again and again.”
The mother declined to be interviewed by KVUE. Meanwhile, the boy's father, Ryan Crawford, wants custody of his son.
“How do you do 13 surgeries? How do you do it?” he asked angrily. “How do you do 13 surgeries and not question the fifth surgery? The sixth surgery?”
Crawsford said that the mother constantly lied about Christopher's condition, claiming he was "dying." He said the court stripped him of custody back in 2012 because he refused to believe the lies about his son's failing health.
“Every single [time] she went into [the] courtroom, she would say Christopher is dying,” he said. “The judge stated that I needed to accept that my son was dying and I said, 'No, I’m not going to accept that my son was dying' and she took away from my visitation.'”It's not uncommon in these cases for parents to literally make their children sick.
Court records state that the abuse began when Christopher was just 11 days old. The mother allegedly said that her son was weak, but medical professionals saw her pouring out his bottle. He was put on a feeding tube when he was just 2 months old.
Feldman added, “These mothers tend to be master deceivers and liars. They’re very skilled at what they do.”
CBS News said that Christopher's case was so serious that several fundraisers were created for him, including one to help him fight lung disease. Last month, staff at Dallas Children's Medical Center called Child Protective Services (CPS) after suspecting that the boy wasn't really sick.
"The fundraising, the doctor shopping. Those are certainly common elements of our cases," said Matthew Gilbert, the regional director of investigations for CPS. "These investigations are very rare. They don't come up very often."
Christopher as well as his two siblings are reportedly now in foster care.
[Photo: YouCaring, Dallas County Jail]