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Woman Faces Murder Charges After Newborn Son Dies From Methamphetamine Intoxication

Could breastfeeding kill a newborn?  That is the question a California district attorney will ask a jury at the trial of a breastfeeding mother. Most women do not intend to harm their children but substance abuse and addiction comes with a heavy price. Such was the case of Maggie Jean Wortman, who has been charged with second degree murder after medical tests revealed that her newborn son died from methamphetamine intoxication obtained through her breast milk. Wortman’s 19-month-old daughter also tested positive for methamphetamine and was placed in protective custody. How could this happen?

The transfer of drugs from the mother’s blood to human milk depends on the chemical composition of the drug. Antibiotics such as penicillin will remain in the mother’s blood for long periods of time whereas certain types of blood pressure and heart medications will remain in the milk. During the first three days after birth, higher concentrations of medicine remain in breast milk. Wortman’s attorney is attempting to argue that methamphetamine in breast milk could not kill a baby but here’s why he’s wrong: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Can Crime Be Linked To Cuts In The Mental Health Budget?

From the New York Times today we have a story entitled, “A Schizophrenic, A Slain Worker, Troubling Questions,” a horrible story about a mentally ill man who killed a social worker in his group home. The story highlights the defendant’s longstanding history of violence with several assaults in his past. He once fractured his stepfather’s skull and his first criminal offense involved slashing and robbing a homeless man. (On another post on this blog Rob wondered why the charges were dismissed in that case; from experience I can tell you it’s probably because the victim and only witness was homeless and couldn’t be located several months later when the defendant came to trial.) The defendant, Deshawn Chappell, also used drugs while suffering from schizophrenia. Before the murder he reportedly stopped taking his depot neuroleptic and was symptomatic. The news story also suggested that he knew he was committing a crime: he got rid of the body, disposed of the car and changed out of his bloody clothes. Nevertheless, he was sufficiently symptomatic to be found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a forensic hospital for treatment and restoration. At his competency hearing the victim’s family thought that the defendant was malingering his symptoms, while the victim’s fiance was distraught enough that he tried to attack Chappell in the courtroom. The point of the Times article appears to be an effort to link the crime to cuts in the Massachusetts mental health budget.

So what do I think about this story? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

What Should A Psychiatrist Do In A Classic Insanity Case?

The voice at the other end of the line was angry and accusatory: “You didn’t even talk to me! You never knew my son! You didn’t talk to any of us!”

I explained to her that since she had never even met the defendant, there was no way she could have any information that would be relevant to the accused’s state of mind at the time of the crime. The victim and the defendant were total strangers and there was no apparent reason for the killing, which made the crime even more tragic. Her son was dead in a random incident, in a crime that was unquestionably motivated only by the defendant’s untreated psychiatric symptoms.

The defendant’s family was equally shocked and horrified. They were all hardworking solid citizens, with no history of criminal contacts, substance abuse or mental illness. When their daughter started getting sick Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Healthcare Reform: Why I’m Scared

I’m scared because I’m reading articles about people threatening to kill — note that word “kill” — elected officials because of their vote on healthcare reform.

A man was arrested last week for his threats against Nancy Pelosi. Another man was arrested for threatening the two senators from Washington state, saying, “I do pack, and I will not blink when I’m confronted. It’s not a threat, it’s a guarantee.”

One congressman’s campaign received an email that read, “If our tea parties had hoods, we would burn your (expletive) on a cross on the White House front lawn,” while another had bricks thrown through the windows of his brother’s house (which was listed as his official address) and the propane line to his gas grill was cut.

The Associated Press reported that the Senate’s Sargent-At-Arms, who monitors security in both houses, reported 42 incidents in the first three months of 2010 — nearly three times the 15 cases that occurred during the same timeframe in 2009, and all related to healthcare reform. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

Saving Murderers In South Africa

Being South African these days sometimes means we see things in a slightly skewed way. It seems to be the way we have become. I have touched on this before, but there is another story which illustrates the point.

The recent run of hijackings were fresh in all our minds because the perpetrators had shot and killed, execution style, a mother and her three year old child just the previous week. There were reports that one specific gang was working the area and were responsible for most if not all the hijackings and associated killings in the area. So when our patient came in, even before the police told us so, we just assumed he was one of this gang. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at other things amanzi*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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