- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Sir Roy Meadow


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Paediatrician in Leeds, England.

Biography of Sir Roy Meadow

Roy Meadow in 1977 used the term “Munchausen syndrome by proxy” to describe the perpetration of the deception in regard to the child. He is an expert on the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and has suggested that some victims of cot-death are wrongly diagnosed and may actually be victims of parental abuse.

According to Meadow, doctors and coroners have literally been helping abusers get away with murder. Under pressure to resolve unexplained cases swiftly and without controversy, they were resorting to diagnoses of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the process, glaring signs of abuse - including broken bones, blood, and foreign bodies in the airways - were being ignored. Sir Roy dropped his bombshell in a study titled "Unnatural sudden infant deaths", published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. He wrote: "SIDS has been used, at times, as a pathological diagnosis to evade awkward truths."

The controversial claim was based on his study of the records, spanning 18 years, of 81 children from around Britain judged by criminal and family courts to have been killed by their parents. In 49 cases the children had initially been certified as dying from SIDS and a further 29 were classified as dying from other natural causes. The mother was responsible for the death, usually smothering, in more than 80% of cases.

However, grave doubt is now cast on the expertise and research techniques of Sir Roy Meadow and other expert witnesses, and their testimonies are increasingly being questioned. Some lawyers and scientists claim that the system's determination to protect children is leading to a reversal of the burden of proof in British courts: that mothers whose babies die in unexplained circumstances are being asked to prove their innocence in front of a jury, and that women have been wrongfully convicted of murder.

One of them is Sally Clark, who was set free by the Court of Appeal on January 29, 2003. She had been convicted of murdering her first two babies a few weeks after birth, and was sentenced to serve two life sentences after an influential "expert" (professor Meadow) told the jury it was too improbable that two children in one family could possibly die of natural causes. For details of this tragic, and extremely interesting case, we recommend that you visit the website http://www.sallyclark.org.uk/, where this information was found.

Roy Meadow is professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, St. James's University Hospital, Leeds. He was president of the British Paediatric Association 1994-1997. His special interests are child protection, particularly Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy abuse; forensic paediatrics and urinary tract disorders

He is also associated with the Asher-Meadow Center for Education & Prevention of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This is a collection of public documents, news reports and Internet resources.

Theres is a continuous debate about Roy Meadow and the Münchhausen by Proxy syndrome on the www.


  • R. Meadow:
    Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, The Hinterland of Child Abuse.
    The Lancet 1977, 2: 343-345.
  • R. Meadow:
    Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
    Archives of Disease in Childhood 1982, 57: 92-98.
  • R. Meadow, Thomas Lennert:
    Munchausen by proxy or Polle syndrome. Which term is correct?
    Pediatrics, Evanston, Illinois, 1984, 74: 555-556.
  • C. N. Bols, B. A. Neal, R. Meadow:
    Co-Morbidity Associated With Fabricated Illness (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy).
    Archives of Disease in Childhood 1992, 67: 77-79.
  • R. Meadow:
    What is and What is Not Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
    Archives of Disease in Childhood 1995, 70: 534-537
  • R. Meadow:
    Unnatural sudden infant death. Archives of Disease in Childhood 1999, 80: 7-14.
  • R. Meadow:
    Abc Of Child Abuse. Paperback. 3rd edition, 1999.
  • R. Meadow:
    Mothering to Death. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 1999, 80: 359-362.

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