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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Munchausen Syndrome by Media

     In 2014 Mindy Taylor, a 35-year-old wife and mother of two, resided in Chillicothe, Ohio, a town of 21,000 in the south central part of the state. She had grown up in Smithton, Pennsylvania, a coal mining village in Westmoreland County 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

     Taylor, in January 2014, created a website called "Mindy's Army: No One Fights Alone," in which she announced to the world that years of heart disease, multiple strokes and lupus had weakened her for her most recent health crisis--intestinal cancer that had spread to her liver. As a result of these conditions she couldn't sit very long, couldn't sleep and was too nauseated to eat. Moreover, she suffered double vision.

     According to Mindy Taylor, doctors in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio as well as in Texas were working to treat her ailments. A clinical trial was about to begin on her behalf that gave her hope she might not die from her illnesses.

     Mindy Taylor kept her social media supporters updated through a medical/fundraising blog at CaringBridge.org. On February 16, 2014 she posted the following message: "This isn't just about me. It's about anyone that is fighting with an illness or cancer…Stay positive and always try to do the next right thing."

     That February Taylor's parents hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Smithton Fire Social Hall. The event raised $7,000 for Taylor's cause.

     On February 24, 2014 Mindy Taylor's local newspaper, the Chillicothe Gazette, published a front-page article featuring her daily struggle with terminal illness. In the long piece she was quoted as saying: "I am preparing for the worst."

     Shortly after the publication of the feature article a reader called a local law enforcement agency and in reference to Taylor's story, said, "It's a lie. You should check it out." An investigator did just that which led to a subpoena for Mindy Taylor's medical records. As it turned out she had been lying about the status of her health. She did not suffer from cancer or the other life-threatening illnesses.

     A Ross County grand jury, on April 11, 2014, indicted Mindy Taylor on the felony charge of fourth-degree grand theft. Through her blog she had raised $21,000. This sum did not include the $7,000 raised at the spaghetti dinner in Pennsylvania. The theft indictment shocked everyone, including members of Taylor's family. 

     Following the indictment, Taylor's attorney, Jeff Benson, told a reporter with the Columbus Dispatch that his client was returning all of the donated money. He said Taylor had left her job with the Chillicothe school system in 2012 and currently received Social Security disability benefits. The attorney did not reveal the nature of her disability.

     In July 2014 the Ross County prosecutor agreed to drop the charges against Taylor after she completed a 12-step "Diversion" program run by the prosecutor's office. The program, a form of probation, was intended give nonviolent first-time offenders a chance to prove themselves to be worthy citizens and erase their criminal records. The program, among other things, required Taylor to attend counseling sessions twice a month, perform 250 hours of community service and give $3,000 to the Southern Ohio Cancer Survivors Organization.

     While Mindy Taylor was not terminally ill with cancer, she may have suffered from a personality disorder involving the use of fabricated or self-inflicted illness to attract attention and sympathy. Women who make themselves sick for this purpose possess a syndrome called Munchausen. Women who make their children ill for sympathy and attention suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. More recently, psychologists have revealed what they call Munchausen Syndrome by Media, a personality disorder in which women gain attention and sympathy through false illnesses publicized on the internet. None of these syndromes, however, are recognized in law as valid criminal defenses.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Interesting. Was the motivation not just purely financial? My first impression was that she was just a big time thief. But, did she suffer from some sort of disorder such as Munchausen causing her to need to be the center of attention through illness? Usually, it involves many hospital visits, or elaborate ruses to fool medical personal. So, I gotta lean toward some type of other personality disorder, such as sociopathy perhaps.