Mother Who Withheld Medical Treatment for Young Son Found Guilty of Attempted Murder

Single mother Kristen LaBrie was found guilty of attempted murder recently, following the death of her 9-year-old son, Jeremy Fraser.  Jeremy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma--a disease with a recovery rate of about 85-90 percent--when he was 7 years old.  Alongside this, he was also a non-verbal autistic child and LaBrie suffered from depression.

For Jeremy’s treatments, doctors prescribed chemotherapy--a decision that LaBrie agreed with until she saw what the side effects did to her son. His non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma went into remission, like the majority of cases do. She did not tell doctors that she had stopped treatments (she administered them herself) and it returned, developing into leukemia. He later died.

LaBrie's family believe she never wanted her son to die – that the treatments ruined his quality of life. Blogs and comment sections abound with horror stories of chemo and people in the medical field have agreed. They see well-meaning (and desperate) parents agree to every treatment possible, even if the child is terminal and the treatments don’t work.  They believe this to be cruel to the child who should have a peaceful and painless death.  Other commentators believe that had Jeremy been a healthy boy otherwise (without autism and many developmental delays) she would have administered the treatments and not lied to doctors (records showed that she stopped picking up his medication supplies and she later blamed it on a “billing error” before admitting that she had long stopped treatment) if her son had not needed so much care to begin with. Her family cite the genuine hardships she went through while others wonder why the case was all about her suffering rather than her son’s treatment.  Bloggers and commentators argued back and forth about the entire situation – from some in complete understanding of her situation, to others making comments about “selective eugenics” on her part.

What’s clear is that every parent can identify with (at least the idea of) LaBrie's situation and feelings of depression. Being a single mother, she was alone with her son and facing situations that most parents cannot fathom.  Some people come of out chemotherapy with bad memories and a wish to never go back. But others face the terror of this treatment indefinitely, with side effects so painful and nauseating that they say they would prefer death over further treatment. An understatement is that chemo is no easy treatment.  Her supporters are angry that the government got involved in this case in the first place. But since chemo is very successful in treating a condition like Jeremy’s, doctors say they were confounded as to why she not only stopped, but pretended she hadn’t.

LaBrie's case was taken to trial and she was found guilty of the crime of attempted murder last week. Additionally, she was found guilty of reckless endangerment and assault and battery on a disabled person. She received a sentence of eight to10 years in prison.

According to the Associated Press, LaBrie stated in court "I am remorseful for my actions. I wish I could have done things differently..."   Even though the judge acknowledged that her situation was a terrible one, the Associated Press quoted him as saying that what she did was "an extended, secretive and calculated act that chills the soul." Her lawyers do concede that she did stop the care and lied about it but her mental condition and depression were a huge factor. Prosecutors implied she could no longer deal with the strain of caring for her autistic son (regardless of his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and decided that his death would be easier all around.

This is a terribly sad case, however one looks at it, and it has raised many questions, from parental neglect and abuse, to parenting rights and the stress of single parenthood to government intrusion.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on the case. What’s yours?

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