Mothers have also been falsely accused of Munchausen by Proxy, sometimes to devastating effect. In Tennessee, Julie Patrick founded Mothers Against Munchausen Allegations, or M.A.M.A, following the death of her infant son, Philip. Officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville suspected Patrick of being a Munchausen mother in 1996. One month after child services separated her from Philip, he died from causes related to numerous birth defects, including gastrointestinal problems. Patrick started the M.A.M.A web site six months after her son's death to reach out to others falsely accused of Munchausen by Proxy.
"It was a way of finding others and to know that you're not alone," Patrick told ABC News in 2004. "There's a feeling of being totally alone when you face this accusation."
Groups like Patrick's Mothers Against Munchausen Allegations say doctors make such accusations when they cannot find the cause of a chronic illness or when they are tired of interacting with what they believe is a troublesome parent.
Dr. Eric Mart, a psychiatrist and author of "Munchausen by Proxy Reconsidered," said some doctors are overzealous in their accusations of Munchausen by Proxy, either because they are troubled by annoying parents or because they are experts in the disorder and have a bias towards identifying it.
"There's an old saying in medicine: You find what you look for and you look for what you know," said Mart.
False accusations do occur, but according to Feldman's research, they are rare. Reviewing 350 documented cases of Munchausen by Proxy, Feldman found just seven where mothers had been falsely accused. Medical records of children of Munchausen mothers often show years of medical tests, as if doctors are doing everything they can to avoid accusing mothers. Doctors do not like to think ill of patient's families, and of mothers in particular, Feldman said.
"It's counterintuitive that any mother would do this to her child."
ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contribute to this report