Christine Marie Maxwell, a Pennsylvania mom, is charged with child abuse, after police said she forced her child to undergo unnecessary medical procedures. 

Maxwell, 48, is accused of coaching her 8-year-old son to lie to doctors about experiencing various symptoms and illnesses. The phony claims led doctors to perform “many medical procedures and tests” that weren’t needed, said East Pennsboro police. 

She was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, endangering welfare of a child, and theft by deception, authorities said. 

Abuse Victim: ‘Mom Tells Me When I’m Sick’

According to court documents obtained by PennLive.com, prosecutors believe Maxwell lied to her son’s doctors about being sick, despite their assurances that the boy appeared perfectly healthy. 

In April 2019, East Pennsboro police said, Maxwell’s fabrications forced her 8-year-old child to undergo a litany of tests and surgeries that were medically unnecessary, including EKGs, ECHOs, a skin biopsy, adenoidectomy, pulmonary function tests, bronchoscopy, appendectomy, GI endoscopy, colonoscopy, an MRI, X-rays, ultrasounds, and countless blood tests. 

She’s also accused of coaching her son to play along with the bizarre scheme. 

“My mom tells me when I’m sick,” the child told investigators, according to a probable cause affidavit

Police believe Maxwell insisted that doctors subject her son to procedures, even when there was no evidence that he needed them. When he got bug bites, reports claim, she demanded a skin biopsy. When the boy had a “barky cough,” Maxwell wanted a bronchoscopy

Pennsylvania mom Christine Marie Maxwell is accused of child abuse.
Pennsylvania mom Christine Marie Maxwell is accused of child abuse. Police say she forced her son to undergo a litnay of unnecessary medical tests and surgeries. Photo credit: East Pennsboro Police

“A biopsy is an invasive procedure which is completely unnecessary and put[s] him at risk of pain, scarring, infection, and bleeding,” investigators wrote in court filings. “A bronchoscopy is a test that requires sedation and carries some risk (such as respiratory depression, bleeding, and possible perforation of the airway).”

According to police, both tests showed that the child was perfectly healthy. Maxwell’s insistence set off alarm bells for hospital staff, who reported her to social services. According to media accounts, the boy was taken out of his mother’s custody in 2019. 

Since then, he hasn’t complained about any health issues, police said. The child’s father is now solely responsible for making medical decisions on his behalf. 

“This abusive behavior has impacted [the child’s] development by limiting his activity, leading him to believe that he is ill when he is not, and causing him to miss school days unnecessarily,” prosecutors alleged in court filings. 

“[He] suffered from some underlying issues but none of the diagnoses should have required such an extensive amount of consultation from so many different specialists.”

Christine Marie Maxwell Facing Prison Time

Only now, almost three years later, is the case making its way through the Cumberland County court system. Maxwell was issued a summons in November on assault and child endangerment charges and was jailed that month. 

At her arraignment on Dec. 7, a judge set the mom’s bail at $20,000. It’s not clear when she was released, but she does not appear on the Cumberland County jail inmate roster as of Wednesday morning. 

Maxwell was charged with three felonies — first degree aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and theft by deception — as well as misdemeanor simple assault. 

If convicted on the child abuse charges, Christine Marie Maxwell could face years in prison.
If convicted on the child abuse charges, Christine Marie Maxwell could face years in prison. The mom is accused of lying to doctors in what may be a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Photo credit: Google Maps

If convicted of the felonies, she could face between 17 and 24 years in state prison, according to legal sources. The misdemeanor assault charge could carry up to a year behind bars under state law

According to online court records, Maxwell is due back in a Cumberland County court in February for a preliminary hearing. 

Police said that Maxwell exhibited the symptoms of the mental illness called Factitious disorder imposed on another, (FIDA), formerly termed Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP).