Methamphetamine Ingestion by a Breast-feeding Mother and Her Infant's Death: People v Henderson

Ronald Ariagno, MD; Steven B. Karch, MD; Robert Middleberg, PhD; Boyd G. Stephens, MD; Marie Valdès-Dapena, MD
JAMA. 1995;274(3):215. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530030035020.
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To the Editor.  —Last fall, a jury in Bakersfield, Calif, convicted a woman of killing her 2-month-old infant.1 According to the prosecution, she had administered a lethal quantity of methamphetamine by breast-feeding. Two forensic pathologists testified for the state. They said that the death was a homicide, that the baby died of "cardiopulmonary failure due to a patent foramen ovale," and other significant findings included "methamphetamine toxicity." The foramen ovale was less than 4 mm (probe patent), and the postmortem methamphetamine level in heart blood was 39 ng/mL, comparable with levels seen in narcolepsy therapy.2 Generally, amphetamine-related deaths are associated with blood concentrations of 300 to 40 000 ng/mL. Probe patent foramen ovale is a normal variant at this age, and past studies have failed to demonstrate abnormalities in the children of women who were prescribed amphetamine during their pregnancies or breast-feeding.2Although the case has received


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