Monday, March 23, 2009

New Infanticide Extenuating Circumstances Bill

I read this story on one of the local station’s website. If you don’t want to read it or if the link has died by the time you click on it… a Representative from Houston, Jessica Farar, has filed a bill that, if passed, would make it possible for a jury to consider post-partum illnesses when determining sentencing for Mothers found guilty of murdering their children. Now, as it is submitted, the murder would have had to occur within the child’s first year of life.

Let me preface my concerns about this bill by saying I have all the sympathy possible for women with post-partum depression. I had bad depressive episodes after the birth of both my wonderful children. However…

I do NOT believe PPD is an excuse for child abuse or murder. While it is a serious medical condition, it is not severe enough to warrant a reduced sentence on murdering a baby.

Post-Partum PSYCHOSIS, on the other hand, is an entirely different scenario. PPP most often occurs in women who have a history of other psychological problems. It is a psychotic state just like any other that renders the patient unable to make rational decisions. Think of it as a pregnancy induced paranoid schizophrenia.

The Andrea Yates and Dena Schlosser cases were the most notorious cases recently and were cited in this article. Schlosser is already out of the psych hospital to which she was committed. Yates is presumably still hospitalized after her conviction was overturned and she plea bargained for involuntary commitment rather than go through another trial.

The problem with this legislation is that it does not include provisions for women to be followed closely after their release from confinement. Most institutions can stabilize a patient in a relatively short period of time if the correct drug cocktail can be found and the patient can be persuaded to take it and continue taking it.
It’s continuing the drug regimen that is a problem, you see. Many of the drugs commonly used to treat psychotic episodes or continuing psychotic conditions have “unpleasant” side effects. They, the side effects, vary by drug but are the biggest stumbling block to medication compliance. Well, that and Denial.

Many patients begin to feel well when they are in a controlled environment and on meds. They become convinced they are “cured” and go off their meds once they are released from that therapeutic environment. And the cycle begins anew once all the drug effects are out of their system.

So, to my way of thinking, keeping these women both medicated AND childless is a big hurdle. Because when you begin talking about forced sterilization, that’s a big, ugly, stinky can o’worms. It may be the most efficient way to ensure low recidivism, but it is also viewed as the first step on a slippery slope of eugenics.

My other biggest concern is that defense attorneys will try to use a new law like this to get shorter sentences for abuse cases or cases of infanticide when the mother was “depressed”. Defense attorneys, a necessary evil in our Justice system, will almost always stretch an inch into a yard when engaged in providing a “vigorous” defense for their client. This new bill is just begging to be used in such a manner.

If this bill makes it out of committee, I can only hope changes are made to it to close the loopholes I see now.

No comments: