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Daughter wins visits with 'Munchausen' mom

/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge cleared the way for a reunion between an 18-year-old girl and her mother, who was sent to prison for deliberately making her so ill that she was hospitalized about 200 times and underwent numerous unnecessary operations.

There is no evidence that visits with her mother, Kathy Bush, would cause psychological or physical harm to the daughter, Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman said in a ruling made public Monday.

Prosecutors said Jennifer Bush was the victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare form of child abuse in which parents make a child ill to gain attention and sympathy for themselves. During the trial, prosecutors said the mother gave her excessive doses of seizure medicine, and tampered with her hospital feeding machine and medical charts.

Kathy Bush has denied that she ever did anything to hurt her daughter.

The last time the two saw each other was 1999, the year the mother was convicted of aggravated child abuse and fraud. She was released in June after serving three years in prison, with several months in a work-release program.

The judge ruled that Bush, 47, may visit her daughter but the two may not live together. She also is not allowed to administer any drugs or medicines or make any health care decisions regarding her daughter.

Girl underwent 40 operations

The mother went to court last week seeking a reunion, and her daughter wrote the judge a letter requesting contact. A condition of Bush’s probation had restricted the mother and daughter from being together, and the two have had only indirect contact, through letters, in recent years.

“We are eager to pick up the pieces and move on with our lives,” Bush said Monday. She looked forward to “recapturing the life that we once had, and I look forward to spending time with Jennifer, my sons and my husband.”

Nancy Gregoire, the daughter’s attorney, said the ruling is “a huge step in the process for these people, of healing.”

Jennifer’s illnesses and mounting medical bills drew national attention when the girl and her mother went to the White House in 1994 to help lobby for health insurance improvements.

The girl’s symptoms began when she was 2 and continued until she was 8. She underwent about 40 operations, including removal of her gall bladder, appendix and part of her intestines. Doctors treated her for seizures, infection, diarrhea, vomiting and other symptoms — all the result of her mother’s actions, prosecutors argued at trial.

Robert Buschel, an attorney for the mother, argued that Jennifer suffered from a rare gastrointestinal disorder.