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October 7, 1974

The Immortal Baron

JAMA. 1974;230(1):90-91. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240010058036

Baron Munchausen died in 1797. Those who know where he lies buried and are privileged to live nearby should not be surprised if they hear him turn in his grave every time his name is mentioned eponymously. After all, what does the imaginative teller of tall tales, the great exaggerator of his daring feats have in common with a patient (elsewhere in this issue p 89) who exhibits kidney stones and bloody urine so as to beguile the physician into manipulative diagnostic or surgical procedures? The baron's aim was to amuse, to startle, or to impress, never to cheat.

What motivates a Munchausenian? What prompts him to wander from hospital to hospital, from city to city, simulating serious illness? Is it the need to be the center of attention? A wish to outwit the doctor and the hospital? A masochistic craving for punishment? Perhaps all these motives play a part,