A woman who stood trial for killing her baby by breastfeeding her has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The new mom, Stephanie Greene, was on morphine for chronic pain and the baby seems to have died from a morphine overdose -- presumably gotten from Stephanie's breast milk. What a horrible scenario. But 20 years in prison? This is the kind of sentence reserved for the worst of the worst of society. There are people who have killed numerous adults who have gotten off lighter (take the teen with "affluenza" for example).
Greene was a nurse who also may or may not have been a morphine addict -- and who may or may not have been aware of the risk she was putting her baby in. All that is clear is that she was on morphine for pain and that her baby most likely died from a morphine overdose. Since there were no needle marks on the baby, authorities decided the drug was passed along through breast milk.
Greene is the first person in the country to be prosecuted with the "weapon" being a substance passed along through breast milk. If you think this is something that could never happen to you, let's think about whether or not you had several glasses of wine or a Xanax or something else that harmed your breastfeeding infant -- would you expect you could spend your life in prison for this? (Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications, including aspirin, are extremely dangerous to children. It's a slippery slope when we start handing down life sentences for what gets transmitted through breast milk.)
Whether or not Greene made the right choice or was the best mother in the world, this could be debated forever. But I'd like to go on record saying this is an unbelievably harsh sentence that has no compassion in it whatsoever. People who hire a gunman to kill their spouse get lesser sentences than this! A DuPont heir who raped a 3-year-old got no time in jail. Are light sentences just for the rich?
Was this a cold, depraved, sociopathic woman? Misinformed, negligent, and ignorant, maybe. But evil? Is this a woman who needs to be kept away from society? I don't think so.
Greene won't be eligible for parole until she has served 16 years in prison. While I agree she should have been charged and punished, given that she hid her addiction from doctors and as a nurse should have known this was dangerous (whether she did or not isn't clear but she should have), I find the sentence to be extreme.
Do you think 20 years in prison is the right sentence?
Image via Spartanburg Detention Center