The HBO documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest, brought attention to one of the worst cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy ever seen by doctors and psychologists when it told the story of Dee Dee Blancharde and her daughter, Gypsy Rose.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a form of child abuse in which a guardian makes their dependent appear ill, often through poisoning, medication, and more. Usually, children who are victims of this kind of abuse will eventually be murdered by their caretaker’s behavior. Dee Dee’s abusive treatment of Gypsy led to Gypsy and those around her believing that she had leukemia, cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities, paralysis, and more — when in reality, she was perfectly healthy. After 17 years, Gypsy murdered Dee Dee, with the help of her then-boyfriend, in order to flee Dee Dee’s abuse. She is now serving 10 years in prison.
When my co-editor Anna and I watched Mommy Dead and Dearest, we were overwhelmed by how the medical community failed Gypsy. We were especially devastated to learn that a doctor had suspected Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but chose not to report it.
The abuse experienced by Gypsy Rose clearly exposes a systemic flaw in our health care system.
How was it possible that doctors didn’t realize they were treating a healthy child for illnesses she did not suffer from? How was Dee Dee able to convince surgeons to perform invasive surgeries on Gypsy, and get prescriptions for an entire closet full of unnecessary medications? How did more doctors not suspect that Munchausen syndrome by proxy was at play, which they are legally obligated to report?
We spoke to Erin Lee Carr, the director of Mommy Dead and Dearest, and Kristy Blanchard, Gypsy’s stepmom, for a series of articles that delve further into the lives of Gypsy Rose and her mother.
Today, Kristy shares her family’s fight to take legal action against the doctors who “treated” Gypsy, and her insight into how Dee Dee was able to take advantage of the health care system.
HelloGiggles: Have any doctors faced repercussions for treating Gypsy, and not discovering she was not actually ill? Have any systemic changes been made in law and health care to ensure this cannot happen again?
Kristy Blanchard: We are in the works with that right now. We reached out to a few lawyers that work in malpractice. None of them want to touch it. They reject us every time. But maybe now that the documentary is out, and they get to see it, they’ll think differently. So we’re in the process of trying to find that lawyer that’s gonna want to take this case on. I mean, like [Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein] … It kind of made me angry that he didn’t want to report it, and like he said, Gypsy wasn’t being abused. She was being “over-treated.” To me, it’s the same thing. You’re over-treating a child.
And people don’t know this … When Rod met me, Dee Dee was going to nursing school. Dee Dee and I worked together at our hospital here. I was the receptionist, and she was a nurse’s aid. So even though she’s going to nursing school, she’s working at a hospital, I’m the receptionist — you still pick up things in your work environment, you pick up things. So it’s not that she didn’t have a medical background — she did. And when we searched her house, I found the prescription packets Dee Dee stole from Mercy Hospital, under her bed.
And when I pulled that out, I was like, “Holy shit.” And we could tell it had been used. How the hell … how can you steal that? They always have it on them. One of them just left it, and she grabbed it? I don’t know. So a lot of that medication that you see in the closet, probably a lot of that Dee Dee probably prescribed … filled out the prescription herself. And we brought everything to the coroner’s office.
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You can check out the documentary on HBO.