Mothers Behaving Badly: 2/2

April was Child Abuse Prevention month. Obviously, this holds a place close to my heart as I deal with victims of abuse with needless frequency. Needless because these injuries are 100% preventable.

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I’m continuing my series on infanticide cases of note that have happened recently. You can read my last post here on the Megan Huntsman case.

This story from People magazine caught my eye because the prosecution involved in this woman’s case alleges she breastfed her baby to death.
 
In short, during the infant’s first month of life, it only gained four ounces. Average weight gain is 0.5-1 oz per day for around 15oz on the lighter side.
 
Then: At 6 weeks old, she died, and an autopsy found enough morphine in her brain, liver and blood to kill an adult. With no puncture marks or other trauma, Alexis – authorities concluded – could only have gotten the drug through breast-feeding.
 
Question #1: Does morphine pass through breast milk? Yes, it does. The concerning issue for me is that one of the major side effects of opiate ingestion is bodily systemic depression. Everything slows down. The patient gets sleepy and their HR, respiratory rate and heart rate can be lower. You need a somewhat awake infant to feed. Seemingly, it is alleged the baby became toxic through breast milk ingestion only because of the lack of trauma. However, I think it should be considered that she also could have directly given the baby medicine.
 
Question #2: Is the sole source of breast milk enough to cause this level of poisoning? I do have issue with this statement. I think it should be considered that she also could have directly given the baby morphine. It turns out the baby’s mother, Stephanie Greene, is a nurse. She would have the know how to directly give the baby morphine and I wonder if this was considered during her trial. Evidently, her nursing “skills” were brought up during the trial in the fact that she doctor shopped for all her scripts. I think this is common among drug users and I don’t think her nursing knowledge was particularly helpful in this area– but it could have been with the administration of the drug to her baby.
 
More attention should be paid to this, especially considering her attorney states there’s never been a US death associated with breast feeding and morphine. To me, this makes direct administration more plausible and sadly, it would not be that difficult to do.
 
She has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
 
In light of April being Child Abuse Prevention month– please remember you might be the only one to save a child’s life. Report suspicion of child abuse. 
 

Mothers Behaving Badly: 1/2

I would be remiss as a pediatric ER RN to not mention that April is Child Abuse Prevention month. Every April comes around and I think I shouldn’t talk about child abuse this year. Haven’t we overcome this as a society? I delayed it most of the month until we had a significant child abuse case come in to our emergency department.

It appears we still need to talk about it. People are still injuring and killing their children.

I thought I would discuss two interesting cases of recent note.

One is the case of Utah woman Megan Huntsman. I know– ironic last name, isn’t it?

Ms. Huntsman is accused of murdering six of seven infants and then disposing of them in her garage in cardboard boxes. Authorities think one of the babies was stillborn. They were discovered by her ex-husband as he was cleaning out the home in order to move in. Authorities think this happened over a 10 year period from 1996-2006. What’s interesting is that Megan evidently hid her pregnancies from everyone. Neighbors noticed that her weight would vacillate between wearing baggy clothes and tight clothes. They never imagined she was hiding pregnancies. DNA testing is pending to ensure these are her children.

What’s curious is that she had a daughter born during this time frame that was allowed to live. What was the choice behind allowing this child to grow-up?

Huntsman evidently has told police that she is responsible for their deaths either by strangulation or suffocation. What she doesn’t say is why.

What’s frustrating from a medical/human perspective is that Utah has a Safe Haven law which allows a person to drop off newborn infants without fear of prosecution if the infant is unharmed.

I’m guessing– but I think this likely would have been a short car ride down the street.

You can read more about Megan Huntman’s case here and here.