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April 22, 1974

Hemoglobin Munchausen

Author Affiliations

From the Medical Service and the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Harlem Hospital Center, and the Department of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

JAMA. 1974;228(4):498. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230290046032

DURING the early 1970s sickle cell anemia as a major health problem has been widely publicized in the black community.1,2 In a recent romantic movie, the heroine is said to be slowly dying of the disease. Mass screening programs have generated undue anxiety in carriers and their parents.1-3

A side effect of increasing publicity could be the development in psychiatrically susceptible individuals of a previously unencountered form of the Munchausen syndrome,4 with classical, although factitious, symptoms of sickle cell disease.

Four such patients, all women, have been seen recently at the Harlem Hospital Center. Two cases were observed on a single occasion only. The other two are briefly reported here.

Report of Cases 

Case 1.—  A 28-year-old black woman, separated and formerly a nurses' aide, used several different names when hospitalized here 15 times between 1966 and 1972. She had also been admitted to at least 14