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'Munchausen' victim misses mom

Now 18, Jennifer Bush asks a judge to let her visit her mother, who kept her sick for years.

By Associated Press
Published July 22, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE - A teenager whose mother was imprisoned for deliberately making her so ill that she was hospitalized 200 times and underwent numerous unnecessary operations asked a judge Thursday, through an attorney, to allow visits between them.

While Jennifer Bush, now 18, did not appear in court, her mother did.

Kathy Bush, 47, listened as her attorney, Robert Buschel, told Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman that Jennifer Bush could make her own decisions because she is now an adult. However, a condition of Bush's probation restricts contact between the mother and daughter.

The young woman "wants to reunite with her mother" and Kathy Bush wants to reunite with her daughter, Buschel said.

The two have exchanged letters in recent years. They have not seen each another since 1999, the year Kathy Bush was convicted of aggravated child abuse and fraud.

Kathy Bush was released in June after serving three years in prison, with several months in a work-release program. She now lives in Georgia.

Prosecutors said Jennifer was the victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare form of child abuse in which a parent makes a child ill to gain attention and sympathy for the parent. At trial, they said Kathy Bush gave her daughter excessive doses of seizure medicine and tampered with her hospital feeding machine and medical charts.

Jennifer Bush'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 said at trial.

Pediatric nurses at Coral Springs Medical Center testified that after her mother visited, Jennifer's condition invariably worsened.

The mother and daughter had captured national attention in 1994 when Kathy Bush lobbied Washington for better health benefits. They visited the White House, where Jennifer sat beside first lady Hillary Clinton, and testified at congressional hearings.

Two years later, authorities removed Jennifer from her home and charged her mother.

"She anguishes over what's gone on, but she is ready to move on," Nancy Gregoire, an attorney for Jennifer Bush, told the judge Thursday.

Broward prosecutor Dennis Nicewander said he did not object to the visits.

"I have spoken to Jennifer several times on this. She has been without a normal family life for 10 years. ... I don't see anything that would lead me to believe there is any sort of risk to Jennifer," Nicewander said.

The judge repeatedly asked if there were any evidence or testimony to show possible harm to the young woman if a reconciliation with her mother were permitted. Nicewander and the attorneys for both mother and daughter said they had no such indication.

Over the years, Jennifer, who spent time in out-of-state foster care before she turned 18, has rarely seen her brothers or her father, Craig Bush. Her father continued to defend her mother even after her conviction, saying justice was not served.

A reunion with her mother would lead to more contact with her father and brothers, Gregoire said.

Kathy Bush did not speak with reporters Thursday, except to respond to a question about her 125-pound weight loss, and to confirm the year she last saw her daughter.

Court aides had no indication when Aleman would rule on the request.

[Last modified July 22, 2005, 00:32:15]


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