10 Diseases Named After People

Munchausen Syndrome
Sir Richard Asher was the person who coined the term Munchausen syndrome. He was also the father of Jane Asher, Paul McCartney's girlfriend, during the Beatles' heyday. Wikimedia Commons

Unlike the previous conditions, Munchausen syndrome isn't named after the physician who first described it, or a famous person who suffered from it. Instead, the name comes from one Baron Karl Friederich von Munchausen, an 18th century German military man who was famous (or infamous) for his rather tall tales. The condition was first referred to as "Munchausen syndrome" in a 1951 article in the British medical Journal "The Lancet," written by English physician Richard Asher, though the syndrome was first discovered by French physician Henry Miege in 1893. Miege was a student of our old friend Jean-Martin Charcot and wrote his thesis on patients with the condition. However it was Asher's article that brought Munchausen's to national attention and prompted other doctors to respond that they too had seen patients with this illness [sources: Ford-Martin, MedicineNet].

Munchausen Syndrome and its variation, Munchausen by proxy (MSBP), are both rare, but chilling, psychiatric disorders. People with Munchausen syndrome intentionally injure themselves or fake symptoms of an illness so that they will receive medical care or be hospitalized. MSBP is worse because the individual — usually a mother — purposely injures her own child or someone in her care, or exaggerates an illness, so that the person will receive medical attention or be hospitalized. People with MSBP have poisoned or suffocated their own children, or placed bacteria in their open wounds [source: Ford-Martin].

People with Munchausen syndrome appear to have a need for attention, suffering and dependency. Perhaps not surprisingly, Munchausen patients are often well-versed in medicine and medical conditions. Some are even in the profession. There isn't a treatment, though psychotherapy has helped some people [source: Ford-Martin].

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