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Friday, October 8, 2021

Murder by Breast Milk

     A judge sentenced a South Carolina woman to 20 years in prison on April 4, 2014 for killing her 6-week-old daughter with what prosecutors say was an overdose of morphine delivered through her breast milk. Stephanie Greene, 39, said nothing as the minimum sentence was handed down. A jury found the former nurse guilty of homicide by child abuse the day before. She could have faced up to life behind bars.

     Her lawyer said she will appeal and it's likely the case will be tied up for years to come. Both the prosecutor and Greene's lawyer agree no mother has ever been prosecuted in the United States for killing her child through a substance transmitted in breast milk. Greene's daughter was born healthy, but was found dead in her parents' bed just 46 days after she was born in November 2010.

     A toxicologist found a level of morphine in the baby's body that would have been lethal for an adult. With no needle marks on the child's body, authorities decided the drugs must have gotten into the infant through her mother's milk.

     A review of her medical records showed Greene carefully hid her pregnancy from her primary doctor. After a home pregnancy test showed she was pregnant, she told her primary doctor she needed to go to a gynecologist for birth control advice. She then got prenatal care from that doctor while not telling her all the painkillers she was taking. Greene also skipped appointments with her primary physician when it became obvious she was pregnant. She sent her husband to pick up her painkiller prescriptions.

     Greene spent more than 10 years racked with chronic pain after a car wreck before her unexpected pregnancy with her husband in 2010, defense attorney Rauch Wise said. Wise argued that prosecutors didn't prove how the baby got the morphine. According to Greene's attorney, there is little scientific evidence that enough morphine can gather in breast milk to kill an infant.

"Breast Feeding Death Sends Woman to Prison for 20 Years, Associated Press, April 4, 2015

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