An Overburdened Mother or Attempted Murder?
Was it a case of wacko faith-healing? Was it a case of compassion run amok so that a mother withheld potentially life-saving medications because they made her son miserable? Or was it a case of a parent, overwhelmed by an ill and autistic little boy, who saw her son's cancer as an opportunity to release herself of the crushing hardships that defined her life?
On April 12, 2011 a jury in Salem, Massachusetts found a 38 year old mother, Kristen LaBrie, guilty in the attempted murder of her son, Jeremy, who died two years ago at the age of nine. Jeremy had autism and at age six was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Kristen admitted at trial that she had failed to provide chemotherapy drugs to Jeremy for at lease five months. She claimed that she didn't want him to become sicker due to the side-effects of the chemotherapy. "He was just not capable of getting through any more chemotherapy," she said.
It became apparent to doctors in February 2008 that LaBrie had been withholding medication and Jeremy's cancer had returned. Jeremy's father gained custody of him in April 2008. Kristen did little to either regain custody of, or see Jeremy prior to his death in 2009.
The defense in the case portrayed LaBrie as a "single mother raising an autistic child with cancer, having limited financial resources an without much support." This depiction of LaBrie could just as well have been a potent stratagem for the prosecution.
An autistic child can present daunting challenges to the most skilled parents. To a single mother who lacks the resources to access specialized therapeutic and educational services for an autistic child, such a disability could blow apart her world. If LaBrie did indeed lack "support", as the defense asserted, was she in a such position that she felt her options were limited and the death of her child might be an inevitable, and desirable, outcome?Continued on the next page