Woman may face death penalty in postnatal depression case

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 16 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:634
  1. Fred Charatan,
  2. Florida Eaton,
  3. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    A US organisation has called for more research into postpartum depression and better services for women affected by the disorder, as the trial of a mother charged with capital murder for drowning her five children reached its final stages this week.

    A Texas jury has been hearing final arguments in the case of a woman who has admitted drowning her five children, who ranged in age from 6 months to 7 years, on 20 June 2001. Despite a history of severe mental illness dating back to 1999, former nurse Andrea Yates, aged 37, living with her husband in Houston, Texas, could face the death penalty if she is found guilty.

    “It is horrific and barbaric,” said Sonia Murdock, president of Postpartum Support International, which provides support and information for women with the condition and carries out research. “We are totally against the execution of mentally ill mothers,” she said, admitting, “We are so much further behind [in the United States] than in the United Kingdom.”

    Her organisation is fighting for better provision for women with the condition and has the backing of Congressional representative Bobby Rush, who is supporting the Melanie Stokes Postpartum Bill. The bill, named after a woman who killed herself four months after the birth of her …

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