courtesy of Ryan Crawford

Crime

How Did a 7-Year-Old Who Wasn’t Sick Undergo 13 Surgeries?

Police say Kaylene Brown forced her young son to undergo more than a dozen surgeries. And her scheme was missed by doctors, the courts, and Child Protective Services.

When Christopher Bowen’s story first came to light after his mother was arrested in November 2017, the bare bones facts of the case were astounding. For the entirety of the then-7-year-old’s life, friends and family believed he was dying of a mysterious illness. He had undergone 13 surgeries and was admitted into the hospital for treatment dozens of times. But after he was brought to the emergency room at Children’s Medical Center with severe seizures, doctors began to suspect that Christopher wasn’t sick. Rather, they suspected his mother was inducing symptoms and causing his illness.

The condition is called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, though it is also called Factitious Disorder, Malingering Disorder, or, simply, medical abuse. In a feature story in the August issue, which is online today, I write about this strange, underreported form of child abuse. At the heart of the story is a simple question: why did it take years for Christopher’s father, Ryan Crawford, to win custody of his son from Kaylene Bowen, Christopher’s mother, whose criminal trial begins August 19?

The story raises other grim questions. Why would a mother make her own child sick? And how could a mother force her child to undergo surgery without doctors, Child Protective Services, or the family court system ever sounding the alarm? Perhaps the most chilling comment in the article comes from Michael Weber, an investigator with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office who has become an expert investigating medical child abuse. If children’s hospitals aren’t seeing at least one prosecutable case of medical child abuse a year, they are missing them. Medical child abuse, as Weber puts it, is “the easiest form of child abuse to commit and get away with in the state of Texas.”

To find out why and how, head here.

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