Eighteenth century German aristocrat Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen was renowned for telling wildly exaggerated tales of travel and adventure. In 1786, Rudolf Raspe published versions of the baron’s imaginative tales in his book, The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The medical profession has since borrowed the name of this famous raconteur to describe a group of individuals whose complaints are fabricated, but nonetheless so convincing that patients are subjected to needless hospitalizations, diagnostic tests, and even surgery. British physician Richard Asher, who first described Munchausen syndrome in 1951, noted that “the most remarkable feature of the syndrome is the apparent senselessness of it. Becoming a patient is the purpose of the syndrome.”

Munchausen syndrome is referred to by several different names, including Münchhausen syndrome, fabricated illness, and hospital addiction syndrome. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) designates this...

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