Woman Fights To Keep Baby Amidst Munchausen’s Concerns

A woman fighting to stop her unborn baby being taken from her at birth is considering having an abortion because she does not want her child to go into care.

Fran Lyon, 22, will have her baby daughter taken into care by social services unless a judicial review can convince the authorities that she does not pose a risk of causing the child emotional harm.

Ms Lyon, of St Hilda’s Road, Hexham, who received treatment for a personality disorder when she was 16, was told by social services she was considered likely to suffer from Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a mother will make up an illness in her child or harm it in order to get attention.

But top psychiatrists are backing her fight to keep her child, whom she has named Molly, and have said there is no clinical evidence that backs up social services’ concerns.

The mother-to-be said: “The choice I am left with is whether to have a late termination or fight, knowing there is a risk they’ll take my baby away.”

Ms Lyon, who helps to run two separate personality disorder charities, suffered a traumatic childhood in which she began self-harming and she was admitted into psychiatric care. She said: “I was treated at a psychotherapy centre for one year, and as an out-patient for a further nine months, but I wouldn’t have been discharged if I had still been unwell, and if I was a risk, I wouldn’t be allowed to do my job.”

Speaking to The Journal, Ms Lyon said that the decision by social services was based in part on a letter from a paediatrician she has never met. She said: “He is not a psychiatrist and cannot possibly make assertions about my current or future mental health.

“Yet his letter was the only one considered in the case conference two weeks ago, which lasted just 10 minutes. Social workers have incredibly tough calls to make, but there is just no evidence to suggest I would be a risk to anybody, let alone a child.”

Ms Lyon has been backed by a letter from the consultant psychiatrist who treated her as a teenager, Dr Stella Newrith. It says: “There has never been any clinical evidence to suggest Fran would put herself or others at risk, and there is certainly no evidence to suggest she would put a child at risk of emotional, physical or sexual harm.”

Ms Lyons, who works for the mental health charities Borderline and Personality Plus, said she understood why social services might wish to monitor her.

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “We cannot comment in detail on this case, however we can confirm that a Child Protection Conference has made recommendations to constituent agencies in relation to an outline child protection plan.

The Child Protection Conference was well attended and appropriately constituted, with representation from specialist medical staff, police, nursing staff as well as social work staff.

“Two highly experienced doctors – a consultant paediatrician and a medical consultant – attended the case conference. We have written to the client to inform her how she can appeal against recommendations, but it is important to point out that current recommendations will still be subject to further assessment and review, and there will be a chance for further input from professionals.”

The case comes as concerns are mounting over the numbers of babies being taken from parents, with critics saying councils need to meet adoption “targets”.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who is chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, said: “There is absolutely no evidence that Fran would harm her child. However, a vague letter from a paediatrician who has never met her has been used in a decision to remove her baby at birth, while evidence from professionals treating her, that she would have no problems, has been ignored.”