A Massachusetts mother has been sentenced this week to eight to ten years in prison for attempted murder. The mom intentionally withheld chemotherapy medications that her autistic son needed. Raising a child that has special needs and a serious illness cannot have been easy. It is vitally important for parents to seek out help before a tragedy like this one happens.
It is an incredibly sad story that many lessons can be learned from. Kristen LaBrie, who is currently 38 years old, had son named Jeremy Fraser. Jeremy was autistic, and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was just six years old. At the time, doctors gave him an 85% to 90% chance of recovery. Jeremy went through large doses of chemotherapy while he was at the hospital, and this resulted in his cancer going into remission.
In order to stay well, Jeremy needed to take chemotherapy medication. His mother failed to get his prescriptions filled, and therefore also failed to administer the chemotherapy medications that Jeremy desperately needed. She continued to withhold his medications for at least five months.
In 2008, doctors started to realize that Kristen LaBrie wasn’t giving her son his medications. This took time to figure out because she was leading doctors to believe that she had been getting the prescriptions filled. She once asked for a liquid version of a medication, stating that Jeremy was having trouble swallowing the pills. Doctors eventually called the pharmacy and learned that despite asking about medications, LaBrie wasn’t actually filling the prescriptions. As a result, Jeremy’s cancer returned. According to CNN, Jeremy died of leukemia, at the age of nine.
Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall argued that LaBrie’s negligence was a factor that greatly contributed to her son’s death. Jeremy’s cancer had gone into remission, but returned because she wasn’t giving him his chemotherapy medication. She argued that Ms. LaBrie intentionally withheld the medication, and used calculated efforts in order to hide this from Jeremy’s doctors.
LaBrie’s attorney, Kevin James, argued that “the system” had failed his client. He claimed that Ms. LaBrie had a mental problem that social workers failed to detect. It was noted that Ms. LaBrie was under “tremendous pressure”, had “severe financial problems”, and it was these difficulties that caused her to lie about Jeremy’s medications. The implication is that she wasn’t willingly refusing to give her son his medication, but that her mental illness caused her to.
This week, Essex Superior Court Judge Richard Welch sentenced Kristen LaBrie to eight to ten years in a state prison. She was convicted of attempted murder.
Being a single parent is difficult. Raising a child that has a severe illness, or that has autism, can be incredibly stressful. It is vital that parents who are struggling seek help. Ask family members to give you a break when you need it. Start talking with a therapist or counselor. Take actions to reduce your stress levels by doing yoga, tai-chi, meditation, acupuncture, or prayer. Don’t let things go as badly as they did for this family.
Image by Thirteen of Clubs on Flickr