A Queensland judge has described the actions of a mother who poisoned her young daughter with chemo drugs as ‘incomprehensible’.
A Gold Coast mother so desperate for attention she poisoned her healthy daughter with cancer drugs will spend at least two years behind bars.
But knowing the suffering she caused and having to explain that to her daughter when she grows up is a greater punishment, a court has heard.
She’s also unlikely to ever regain custody of her daughter and son.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced on Wednesday for causing grievous bodily harm to her then four-year-old girl.
The court heard she was so desperate for attention that before poisoning her daughter, she faked symptoms to have her own appendix removed.
The 23-year-old mother of two bought the chemotherapy drugs over the internet and fed them to her daughter over nine months.
She also wrote about the girl’s “fight for life” on Facebook, attracting more than 8000 supporters and even $500 in donations.
The drugs last year caused her daughter, now aged five, to suffer life-threatening illness, including bone marrow failure.
Outside Brisbane District Court, the girl’s maternal grandmother said it was tough seeing her so sick.
“It was really hard, it was heartbreaking,” she told reporters.
“But I’m not going to focus on that. She’s healthy now.”
Despite the ordeal, the grandmother, who is now caring for the little girl, said the family was sticking by her daughter who won’t be eligible for parole until 2015.
“She’s my daughter … she’s going to get the help she needs,” she said.
Defence barrister Catherine Morgan said the mother had suffered from an extremely rare mental disorder known as factitious disorder by proxy, where a person deliberately produces, feigns, or exaggerates symptoms of someone in their care.
She said her client had also faked symptoms to have her own healthy appendix removed.
Prosecutor Glen Cash argued the woman was suffering a personality disorder, not a mental disorder, as she was not delusional, psychotic or out of touch with reality.
Mr Cash said the mother fed the drugs to her daughter to attract attention to herself, but conceded that her capacity to see it was wrong was impaired somewhat.
He said the drugs put the child at an “unquantifiable” risk of infertility and increased her risk of developing certain cancers by one to two per cent.
In sentencing the woman, Judge Anthony Rafter said the betrayal of her daughter’s trust was “incomprehensible”.
“Your daughter must have experienced pain and discomfort,” he said.
“You caused your daughter severe suffering and a life-threatening illness, she was required to undergo evasive medical procedures.”
The woman was sentenced to a maximum of six years, has already spent 426 days in custody, and will be eligible for parole on April 10 next year.