SC police: Baby died from morphine in breast milk

AP News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2011 5:49 PM
SC police: Baby died from morphine in breast milk

A 6-week-old baby in South Carolina died after she received lethal doses of the painkiller morphine through her mother's breast milk, authorities said Friday.

Stephanie Greene, 37, was charged with homicide by child abuse after a seven-month investigation that began when her daughter, Alexis, was found dead in her bed in her Campobello home. Authorities say the painkiller got into Greene's breast milk after she took pills and used patches containing morphine constantly since the child's birth.

Spartanburg County deputies opened a homicide investigation in January when autopsy results showed a lethal level of morphine in the child's body.

Breast-feeding mothers are allowed to take morphine because low levels of the painkiller pass into the mother's milk when taken properly, said Diana West, a spokeswoman for La Leche League International, which encourages breast-feeding in new mothers.

"Most drugs like morphine pass so poorly through human milk that it is nearly impossible for a child to have a therapeutic dose, much less a lethal dose," West said.

Authorities said their investigation shows Greene illegally obtained the drugs at least 38 times in less than two years at a Spartanburg pharmacy, according to state Department of Health and Environmental Control investigators.

That led authorities also to charge Greene with 38 counts of violating drug distribution laws. If convicted, Greene faces up to 5 years in prison for each felony count. She also faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of homicide by child abuse.

Greene was being held in the Spartanburg County jail awaiting a bond hearing. Her husband, Randy, refused to talk about the case or give the name of his wife's attorney when reached by phone by an Associated Press reporter.

"You know about as much as I do right now," he said.