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July 19, 1995

Methamphetamine Ingestion by a Breast-feeding Mother and Her Infant's Death: People v Henderson

Author Affiliations

Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford, Calif
Medical Examiner's Office San Francisco, Calif
National Medical Service Laboratories Willow Grove, Pa
Medical Examiner's Office San Francisco, Calif
University of Miami School of Medicine Miami, Fla

JAMA. 1995;274(3):215. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530030035020

To the Editor.  —Last fall, a jury in Bakersfield, Calif, convicted a woman of killing her 2-month-old infant.1 According to the prosecution, she had administered a lethal quantity of methamphetamine by breast-feeding. Two forensic pathologists testified for the state. They said that the death was a homicide, that the baby died of "cardiopulmonary failure due to a patent foramen ovale," and other significant findings included "methamphetamine toxicity." The foramen ovale was less than 4 mm (probe patent), and the postmortem methamphetamine level in heart blood was 39 ng/mL, comparable with levels seen in narcolepsy therapy.2 Generally, amphetamine-related deaths are associated with blood concentrations of 300 to 40 000 ng/mL. Probe patent foramen ovale is a normal variant at this age, and past studies have failed to demonstrate abnormalities in the children of women who were prescribed amphetamine during their pregnancies or breast-feeding.2Although the case has received

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