April 5, 2014

A 20-year sentence to a woman who killed her baby with morphine delivered through breast milk.

It was the minimum sentence for the crime of homicide by child abuse, which is what the prosecutor charged and proved against Stephanie Greene.
Greene’s lawyer said she was only trying to stop debilitating pain from a car crash more than a decade before and relied on her own judgment and medical research on the Internet instead of the advice of doctors and is still overwhelmed with grief from the loss of her child....

A toxicology report from the baby’s autopsy found a level of morphine in the child’s body that a pathologist testified could have been lethal for an adult, prosecutor Barry Barnette said.... Greene still faces 38 counts of obtaining prescription drugs through fraud, and Barnette said he is still deciding whether to take those cases to court.

25 comments:

Curious George said...

War against women. Her body her choice. Blah blah blah...

Illuninati said...

There seems to be a growing tendency to criminally prosecute people for tragic accidents. The woman has suffered enough. Leave her alone.

dbp said...

She was a nurse and ought to have known better. Formula is easily available, there is no excuse for this kind of thing.

FullMoon said...

A toxicology report from the baby’s autopsy found a level of morphine in the child’s body that a pathologist testified could have been lethal for an adult, prosecutor Barry Barnette said....

Then why is Mom alive? Does morphine accumulate in the system?

madAsHell said...

Morphine is commonly used by hospice.

When do we start prosecuting hospice workers for easing the elderly......over the line??

I'm sure my father would have gone bonkers over the mammary gland delivery system.....hell, he might still be with us.....miserable, but......TITS!

(apologies to Titus)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Illuninati,

I'm with you, up until the 38 charges of "obtaining prescription drugs through fraud." That sounds a mite systemic.

dbp said...

"Then why is Mom alive? Does morphine accumulate in the system?"

Good question Full Moon.

Morphine does not accumulate in the system, but infants are more susceptible to its effects than adults.

Big Mike said...

Earlier this week an heir to the du Pont fortune had his eight year prison sentence for raping his three year old daughter suspended "because he would not fare well in prison."

Anybody think that any part of this woman's sentence will be suspended?

That's the way law works in the United States in the 21st century. Law professors helped make it so.

Ron Nelson said...

On balance it seems the sentence is fair and there need be no additional prosecution. If the linked story is factual you have person who was very aware of the risks she was taking on behalf of the child coupled with a debilitating condition that made her own existence frail. Had she terminated the pregnancy there would be no story. But she did not.

Unless there was some diminished capacity from her medical condition she had the necessary understanding to make her actions unlawful. But she is not unworthy of sympathy, thus the additional charges, though lawful, seem unnecessary given the sentence she received.

Ron Nelson said...

On balance the sentence seems fair and no additional prosecution makes sense. Based on the facts set forth in the story, the defendant was well aware of the risks she was taking with the life of the child.

Ironically if she had chosen to terminate the pregnancy there would be no crime and no story. But she did not.

Her debilitating condition makes it understandable that she would be tempted to do what she did. But she could not do it without risking the life of the child. She knew that the child could, and likely would, die.

madAsHell said...

Morphine does not accumulate in the system

...but don't folks develop a tolerance to it? The heroin required for an established user would put the new comer in the morgue.

dbp said...

I think one of the modes of morphine resistance is that the immune system develops antibodies against it. The infant probably had some resistance, but infant's immune systems are not as strong as a adult's. The child was not exposed to the drug as long either--the nurse was addicted to morphine for years.

cubanbob said...

Earlier this week an heir to the du Pont fortune had his eight year prison sentence for raping his three year old daughter suspended "because he would not fare well in prison."

Anybody think that any part of this woman's sentence will be suspended?

That's the way law works in the United States in the 21st century. Law professors helped make it so."

Mike this woman made two mistakes. The first is not to reside in Delaware. The second is not to have had Joe Biden's son as her lawyer.

My give-crap-meter registers zero for this woman. She acted with reckless depravity. It isn't that the poor kid was a toddler who managed to find moms pain pills and swallowed them by accident.

David said...

Does homicide by child abuse require any kind of intent? Sounds like a negligence crime, or that the difference is poorly distinguished.

David said...

Harsh sentence. You could also have charged involuntary manslaughter, which would not result in a sentence like this.

Saint Croix said...

She probably used morphine throughout her pregnancy, and that's what killed her baby.

Chronic use of morphine in later pregnancy has been associated with neonatal withdrawal. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome presents as irritability, hyperactivity and abnormal sleep pattern, abnormal crying, tremor, vomiting diarrhea and subsequent weight loss or failure to gain weight, and may result in death

Unknown said...

I see victims of two issues common in our culture today:
a: The promotion of breastfeeding - it would make perfect sense in this situation to not breastfeed, but the social pressure is tremendous in some circles. The propaganda against bottle feeding probably distorted this nurse's analysis of the hazards.
b: The war on drugs has pain patients as collateral-damage. The level of morphine that someone in severe pain can tolerate is much higher than US doctors will prescribe. I had a friend who was a Roman Catholic and life activist, who found that he had no trouble being a resident on a cancer ward under a doctor who was a euthanasia promotor. There were times he told me of his boss prescribing what she thought enough morphine to "help along" a terminal patient in severe pain, and it turned out to be near on the right amount to make the patient comfortable.
It has gotten to the point in the US where doctors who know how much morphine is needed for true pain control will under-prescribe, because their own license and liberty is at risk if they are seen to be "over-prescribing" by prosecutors and boards with no expertise in pain management. This is inhumane, and I am sickened by it.

CatherineM said...

Typical of people these days, "she consulted the internet" and ignored her doctors and killed her kid.

Kind of the like the anti-vaccine people.

CatherineM said...

MadAsHell - you don't see the difference between easing the pain of the dying with overdosing a healthy baby on morphine?

Joe said...

This story is a little strange since from my limited reading, only a small amount of morphine goes to the infant when breastfeeding. For the amount to be enough to kill an adult, the woman would have to have consumed something like 10x the amount to kill her!

Isn't it more likely, she's a drug addict and gave the infant morphine so she could get high?

Eeyore Rifkin said...

Here's the code: "Under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, and being eighteen years old or more the defendant recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury or death to another person less than eleven years old and thereby causes the death of such person."

I don't believe it's unfair to severely punish such a crime. The sense that this particular case is unfair--which was my gut reaction too--depends on an obliviousness to "depraved indifference to human life." One suspects the prosecution had its work cut out to make the case, because our natural instinct is to empathize with mothers, and, as adults, cut them some slack.

The Godfather said...

The post says the prosecutor "charged and proved" death by child abuse, yet the news story says "prosecutors didn’t prove how the baby got the morphine". I find those two statements perplexing and perhaps contradictory. It seems unlikely that the infant found his own pusher, so either the child received the morphine through mother's milk, the mother fed the morphine to the child in some other way, or an unknown third party gave the morphine to the child. The jury evidently believed either the first or second alternative.

Normal human beings will naturally sympathize with the notion that the loss of the child is punishment enough for the mother, but do you think a normal human being would have done what this woman did? Do you want her to have parental control over another child? I ask these questions; I don't claim to answer them.

jaed said...

do you think a normal human being would have done what this woman did?

I can imagine it. She desperately needed the painkillers, she perhaps thought that she had to breastfeed to be a decent mother, she perhaps found some information on the net that seemed to indicate that it would be safe, and she deluded herself about that because she needed to breastfeed and she needed effective pain medication and the two couldn't be reconciled unless she did delude herself about how safe it was.

You can see how this could happen. (Particularly since the judgment of someone who's in chronic pain is likely kind of questionable in the first place, and deliberate undertreatment of that kind of pain is common. If she had postpartum psychological effects, that also wouldn't help her judgment.)

Freeman Hunt said...

"The promotion of breastfeeding - it would make perfect sense in this situation to not breastfeed, but the social pressure is tremendous in some circles. The propaganda against bottle feeding probably distorted this nurse's analysis of the hazards."

This was the first thing that came to my mind. Perhaps we should temper the promotion of nursing with the explicit injunction that is isn't *always* better.

Fernandinande said...

killing her 6-week-old daughter

I few months earlier - no problem!