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Mom Who Withheld Autistic Sons Cancer Meds Found Guilty

Kristen Labrie, the mom who withheld her autistic son’s chemotherapy for five months, has been found guilty of attempted murder, assault and battery on a disabled person with injury, assault and battery on a child with substantial injury, and reckless endangerment of a child.

The jury took less than seven hours to deliberate.

LaBrie’s son, Jeremy Fraser, was diagnosed with a highly treatable form of lymphoma just after he turned 7. LaBrie was supposed to give him at-home chemotherapy treatments, but she did not fill his prescriptions and lied to doctors when she was questioned about them. By the time doctors understood what was happening, the boy’s condition had advanced to leukemia. He died when he was 9 years old, in March 2009.

LaBrie said she withheld the medication because she couldn’t bear the pain the medications were causing her son. Jeremy was autistic and non-verbal, and LaBrie testified that she was overwhelmed caring for him.

Jeremy lived the last year of his life with his father, Eric Fraser, who died in a motorcycle accident seven months after his son’s death.

LaBrie’s case is extremely unusual, and troubling in that she’s being portrayed as a mom who was overwhelmed. She’s not accused of harming her son through malice but rather failing to provide life-saving medical treatment out of, well, simple failure. She struggled with depression during this period as well.

The Boston Globe writes:

Legal analysts said yesterday that the case was the most unusual since prosecutors brought manslaughter charges two decades ago against a couple who refused to authorize surgery for their toddler, who was suffering from a treatable bowel condition. The couple, David and Ginger Twitchell, then of Hyde Park, were Christian Scientists and believed the boy could be healed by spiritual treatment. He died within several days after his diagnosis in 1986.

The state Supreme Judicial Court, in reviewing that case, determined in a landmark decision that parents have a legal duty to provide medical care for gravely ill children, regardless of religious faith.

This case also seems to uphold that a child’s right to medical care trumps anything going on with the parent. Following this conviction, LaBrie may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, though seven and a half is more likely according to the Globe. The judge may adjust her sentence up or down depending on mitigating or aggravating factors. The fact that her son was disabled may be seen as an aggravating factor, the Globe said.

Photo: RambergMediaImages

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