Monday, January 30, 2006

Was it murder or negligent homicide?

Dateline NBC on Sunday (29 Jan), showed a piece on Ariel Botzet, an 11 year-old girl who died of diabetic ketoacidosis. Her mother was charged with her murder.

I don’t have any sympathy for the mother. She said that she feels no responsibility for her daughter’s death. What kind of parent doesn’t feel responsible for their child’s well-being? If Olivia has one high blood sugar, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. If she has a night of highs, I feel like I’ve failed her. If she DIED? Forget it. I’d have to be commited because I would completely bat-shit crazy with guilt and grief. The feeling that this mother gave off was one of “Woe is me, I’m going to jail.” Not one of grief over the loss of her child.

Her attorney tried to blame the girl, saying she could have been sneaking candy and soda. True. She could have been. If her blood sugars were running so high that she had an a1C of 16.1 (her results just before her death), which means she had an average of 420 bgl over the last three month - 420!! Jesus, that's high - then she was probably starving because her body was making so many ketones that it was eating itself. Had her mother been checking her blood sugar, she could have dealt with the high blood sugars then and there. Had her mother been in contact with an endocrinologist, the issues of cheating could have been resolved, had they been happening. It really bothers me that they are blaming the girl here, though. She learned by example and her example doesn’t seem to have taken her disease very seriously at all.

Someone (a friend with no D experience) asked if the daughter wasn’t old enough to be taking care of herself. Yes, at 11 years old, the girl could have been checking her own blood sugar. She could have even been giving herself her own shots. But if her mother was lackadaisical about her care, then the daughter probably didn’t realize the importance of being on top of checking. Olivia is 11 and checks her own sugar and boluses herself, but she’s on a pump. She would not be capable of doing the calculations needed to administer shots for food. She just can’t do the math yet. And even with the pump, which calculates her dose for her, she still tells me how much it’s telling her to bolus.

I do think that some responsibility has to fall on the father’s and doctors' shoulders. Apparently, Ariel rode her bike across town to visit her father about a week before she died. From the sounds of it, she didn’t have her meter or any insulin with her. I know that I would not let Olivia ride her bike across town, diabetes or no diabetes. The father said that Ariel looked pale and a bit sickly. If he was so concerned about her well-being, why didn’t he take her back to her house to get her meter? Why didn’t he take her to the doctor’s himself? And if the doctors were so concerned over her high a1C results and her mother’s apparent lack of care, why didn’t they contact DSS or some other social service? I don’t think all the blame can be placed on the mother in this case, although she certainly should bear the brunt of it.

The case is very sad. Had someone stepped in, even a couple of weeks earlier, this girl might not have died.


Jamie said...

I'm sorry - I feel she is guilty and should be sitting in jail rotting for what she did to her daughter. It makes me absolutely SICK to think she is a free woman right now.

An a1c of 16.1??? Holy crap. Maybe the kid was cheating, but its the responsibility of the parent to make sure she is educated about the consequences of doing so. I'd take that kid to a CDE every DAY if I had to to get her to understand the consequences.

If you were testing your child on a regular basis - you'd KNOW about the high sugar results and you'd do something about it. I don't care what anyone says, an 11 year old is not capable of taking on this disease entirely by themselves.

It's neglect, and because of that neglect she lost a daughter. In essence, she is the cause of death ... and that is murder.

(just my opinion)

Major Bedhead said...

There are different degrees of murder, though. She was charged with first degree murder, which is pre-meditated. I don't think she meant for her daughter to die, but I do think she should be prosecuted for it and serve jail time for it. I also think the father should be prosecuted.

Jamie said...

Thats true, I don't think it was premeditated but to me the end result is the same - should it matter how she went about doing it? She knowingly knew that not looking after the disease could be fatal (who doesn't know that when dealing with this disease???) yet she continued to be neglectful.

I dunno - it blows my mind how someone could do that.

Jamie said...

Heh - making up my own language there (knowingly knew?) lol.

Yes, the father should be held responsible too - no doubt about it.

Ellen said...

I don't agree with you Jamie. Some of my feelings are posted here

btw, when my son was young, I recall the endo saying "A1C 12 (or 13) - Keep up the good work"

Jess said...

Julia - Thanks. Knowing how Olivia handles the day-to-day of her diabetes helps put Ariel's demise in better perspective for me. It's a little scary that the decision was overturned so quickly - do you think she'll be convicted again?

And I agree that the father wasn't blameless - at the very least he should have had his own meter at his house and checked her when she was there. (And since the defense never brought it up, I'm assuming he didn't.)

Anonymous said...

I watched that, too, and have a post started about it for my own blog. That poor child; I can't even imagine how terrible she must have felt in the weeks leading up to her death.

I was very distressed at the fact that the father wasn't charged as well. They had lived as a family for a lot longer than the parents had been separated, and there seemed to be a well-entrenched pattern of neglect that he had to have played some part in. Both of them should have been prosecuted and sent to jail IMO.

Nicole P said...

The decision was overturned because the judge allowed testimony that had been excluded before the start of the trial (from a CDE who worked with this family around diabetes care when they lived in Colorado)

I agree that this woman should be in jail. Doctors and nurses (both plural) testified during her trial that she was told that she needed to ensure that she was testing Ariel's bloodsugar, that she was giving her insulin, that an A1C of 16 was "off the charts," that extended periods of high bloodsugar could be fatal, and that if her child *ever* began throwing up that she should be in contact with a doctor immediately. She had all of the information that she needed to know that her daughter was in grave danger -- and she still did NOTHING until her daughter had been vomitting for TWO DAYS. TWO DAYS. She did nothing until "Ariel couldn't throw up any more..." Any diabetic who has had high bloodsugar in the 200 or 300s for any longer than a day knows that this child must have been in AGONY. How in God's name did this mother ignore that?

This makes me just furious. I have no compassion for this woman -- whose behavior demonstrates she didn't care much about anyone but herself.

An 11 year old child is NOT capable of handling diabetes on their own. Not even close. I'm 33 years old and I can't handle it on my own -- I rely on my diabetes care team, my boyfriend and other friends, and -- yes -- my parents -- to give me the information I need to take care of myself and to watch out for me when I'm not able to do so myself.

This kid didn't have a chance. And this mother's pattern of neglect (MULTIPLE A1Cs in the TEENS, DSS called when they lived in Colorado to report her children were dirty and that they were sick) and her unwillingness to help her daughter -- even when her daughter couldn't help herself -- amount, in my mind, to premeditated murder.

Debbie said...

Julia~ I watched this too and as I was watching I thought about you and Olivia. I don't know you personally but I know how freaked out you get when something isn't right with her blood sugars. This woman should be in jail not just because her daughter died but because of the negligence she showed. Her daughter was sick for a long time and she did nothing to help her... I also agree that the father should be in jail too.

Anonymous said...

I am not defending Ariels father in any shape or way but I will everyone that as long as they were together (her mother and father) Ariels blood was controled never a problem, 2 months after Cheryl moved with the little girl to Colorado is when it all started the negelect anyways, once the father moved on with his life and had a new girlfriend is when Ariels care decreased, once Cheryl moved back to Vegas in the father only got to see his daughter maybe 10 times in 2 and a half years and for no longer then 3 hours at the most. He always asked if she was getting her shots and blood checked she always told us yes. (in fear of her mother of course) Super Bowl sunday Feb 1 st was the last time he saw her alive and they only lived 2 or 3 blocks away from each other not across town.she was only there for maybe 3 hours before her mom wanted her back home. if anyone would like to know more contact me at