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SC woman gets 20 years in breast feeding overdose

Woman Gets Twenty Years In Jail For Breast Feeding Overdose


Apr. 4, 2014 1:36 PM EDT
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - A judge sentenced a South Carolina woman to 20 years in prison Friday for killing her 6-week-old daughter with what prosecutors say was an overdose of morphine delivered through her breast milk.

A prosecutor said Stephanie Greene, 39, was a nurse and knew the dangers of taking painkillers while pregnant and breast feeding, instead choosing to conceal her pregnancy from doctors so she could keep getting her prescriptions. She lost her nursing license in 2004 for trying to get drugs illegally.

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.

The 20-year sentence was the minimum after a Spartanburg County jury found Greene guilty of homicide by child abuse Friday. She could have faced up to life behind bars. Greene will have to serve 16 years before she is eligible for parole. She said nothing in court and quietly shuffled out of the courtroom, her hands and feet shackled, after she was sentenced.

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. Also, prosecutors didn't prove how the baby got the morphine and there is little scientific evidence that enough morphine can gather in breast milk to kill an infant, Greene's lawyer Rauch Wise said.

"The court can't punish her any more than she already has been by losing a child," Wise said.

Greene's husband did not talk to reporters. Wise said he supported his wife and was devastated as he prepared to raise their 7-year-old son alone.

Greene's fourth pregnancy in 2010 was unplanned, but she and her husband of 10 years joyously accepted the surprise, her lawyer Rauch Wise said. She has two children from a previous marriage.

Alexis was born healthy, and her mother chose to breast feed. Forty-six days later, Greene called 911 to report her baby was unconscious in her bed. On a recording of the call, she sounds groggy and unfocused. The former nurse first tries to do CPR compressions on the baby's back and has trouble counting to keep pace. Investigators at the scene found dozens of pill bottles and painkiller patches on her nightstand where the couple's then 4-year-old son could get to them.

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.

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 doctor she needed to go to a gynecologist for a birth control. She then got prenatal care from that doctor while not telling her all the painkillers she was taking, Barnette said.

"She was a nurse. She knew how to work the system," Barnette said. "She caused the loss of that child."

But that is an unfair characterization of a woman who remains racked with chronic pain from a 1998 wreck where she fractured her skull and pelvis, Wise said.

"She needed those meds to get up in the morning and function," Wise said. "She was on total disability because of her pain, her fibromyalgia and all the other things wrong with her."

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

Greene had her nursing license suspended in South Carolina in 2004 because she was irrational at work, tried to call in a prescription illegally and refused a drug test, according to an order from the state's Nursing Board.

Barnette doesn't want his prosecution to stop women from breastfeeding. He took this case personally because his wife had a miscarriage in 1989. She is a nurse and personally reviewed the case.

"We make sacrifices every day for our children," Barnette said. "She decided she was going to have her drugs and sacrifice the health, and ultimately the life, of her child."


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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Jan April 04 2014 at 5:18 PM

So many loving parents out there would have loved to have that

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shar874 April 04 2014 at 6:57 PM


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gmc1352 April 04 2014 at 7:34 PM

If she was in pain and needed to take strong drugs, she should have fed the baby formula...as a nurse she should have known better...

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sosafong April 04 2014 at 4:20 PM

She looks like a junkie to me. She maybe thought this would not happen but it did. The baby went right back to Jesus she did not deserve her.

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Blessed April 04 2014 at 7:35 PM

I respect all the opinions on here-I swear my hand I DO but let's acknowledge that the woman ( nurse or not ) still DOCTOR SHOPPED! Patches, PLUS several meds and who is to say how many trips to the shade tree pharm guy who sells them at dollars per pill when she " ran out " because she " takes more than she should " .These things DO ring up a tolerance with a quickness! Honest and truthful pain management can and DOES work-I know. But it's a two way street; when they stop working-you have to tell your pain management Dr and when you get pregnant, you OWE it to that baby to tell even faster! Like the minute you find out you are in The Family Way! Hydrocodone is the rage at the moment and folks feel ashamed when they have to take " tens " and then even they wear off but guess what? They go all the way up to " 90's" so there is no shame in getting an increase when the tens don't work so well. ( No I am not on those-but I have had a thirty and it was WAY too much-for ME ) so I told my Dr and am myself determined I would deal with the pain after tens. But I still see him every three months and we talk honestly every time. I don't Dr shop because I want one GYN, one general practitioner and one pain manager-no shade tree guys. I fear dying too much to twist towards what THEY may be making! People, there is no shame in pain, but please be honest with your Drs!
And for gosh sakes, NEVER leave your meds in reach of anyone-especially a toddler or young child! This didn't have to happen and there are ways to break addictions without the pain of cold turkey. Most Drs WANT to help but YOU have to tell them the truth!

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pupmobile April 04 2014 at 8:14 PM

To bad that was all she got.

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rude April 04 2014 at 8:22 PM

Good!! Her uterus will be useless by the time she gets out.

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Diane April 04 2014 at 4:09 PM

She wasn't on total disability when she had her nursing license suspended in 2004, as her defense attorney tried to make us think. Maybe she was able to con her doctors into saying she was disabled so she could get disability after she lost her nursing license which is an abuse of the system. She wasn't getting her pain meds from just one doctor if she had bottles of meds & patches on her nightstand. While I have a ton of empathy for people who become addicted to pain meds, this woman should have known that she needed intense rehab to get better. From the minute she found out that she was pregnant, she should have quit taking those pain meds. It sounds like she took them all through the pregnancy. I'm surprised that the baby didn't go through withdrawals after it was born---or maybe she knew enough to get the baby out of the hospital before it started to exhibit signs of opioid withdrawal. She had no business breastfeeding her child, & everybody knows that whatever you put into your body gets put into your baby's body through breastmilk.

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sidecookie April 04 2014 at 4:07 PM

Why did she breastfeed? She new better and so did her husband! He is just as guilty. He new she was and had been for a long time on strong pain meds! Maybe they couldn't afford formula because of the cost of the drugs!
What about her OB. We all know they do blood test all the time. The poor child never had a chance!

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1 reply
ggena sidecookie April 04 2014 at 5:35 PM

Baby never had a chance. Mom knew what she was doing, or should have known, but I think she knew.

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wilsonsl26 April 04 2014 at 4:22 PM

So this woman gets 20 years for being an addict and killing her baby but the heir that raped his daughter and was charged with raping a child doesn't even see the inside of a cell. WTF is wrong with our country?

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