SINGAPORE — A woman who repeatedly injected her six-year-old son with insulin in a bid to give him a peaceful death was jailed five years on Wednesday (5 May).
The 29-year-old Singaporean woman, who was diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, had given her son the injections even though he was not actually in need of them. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental health disorder which manifests in caregivers making up illnesses in or causing injury to a person under their care.
According to court documents, the woman injected her son with insulin on at least 13 occasions over seven months in 2019 and admitted him to a hospital several times. She had done so in a bid to draw attention to herself and would change the results of medical tests performed on her son to make it seem as if he was ill.
The woman, who also has two daughters, would also physically harm her son to produce symptoms of illness, with the purpose of getting sympathy, affection and recognition for her perceived devotion towards him. While she considered her son her "favourite" child, she also despised him for his resemblance to her elder brother, who had raped her as a child.
At the State Courts on Wednesday, the woman – who was described as a pathological liar, and also afflicted with major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – pleaded guilty to one count of causing hurt by administering a poison to her son, who is now aged nine. None of the parties involved in the case be named due to a court-imposed gag order.
The court heard that the woman had a checkered past involving her family, which includes her three brothers. One of the brothers had molested and raped her while she was aged between nine and 12.
These offences came to light only when she was 13, leading to her brother being sentenced to two years at the Singapore Boys' Home. Loathing her brother for the abuse, the woman ran away from home and married in 2013.
In 2017, the woman’s mother moved in with her following the death of the woman's father. The next year, the brother who abused the woman also got married. When the woman found out that her brother's wife was pregnant, she became furious at him for moving on with his life and felt that he did not deserve happiness.
"She decided to kill herself, her mother, the accused’s brother and her three children in September 2019 when the accused’s brother’s wife gave birth. She intended to burn everyone alive with gasoline except for (her own son)," said the prosecution.
For her son, she decided to kill him via insulin injections so that he could die a peaceful death, after she learned online that a high dosage of insulin could cause a person’s blood sugar level to crash, leading to brain damage, coma or death.
Planned son's death
She decided to kill her son in September 2019 by injecting with two to three insulin pens at one go so as to administer a high dose of insulin.
She purchased insulin from a pharmacy in Johor, where she was not required to show a prescription. She then watched YouTube videos to learn how to administer the pens, all the while keeping her plans from her husband.
The woman injected her son with insulin for the first time in January 2019 while in a toilet at Causeway Point. She then observed him for the next few days, noting that he was especially hungry.
She injected him again on 10 June and 17 June, as well as on 1 July while at a cafe at the Zoo. She also lied to doctors that the her son had a seizure during his trip to the Zoo. The boy's teacher claimed he had been well.
The woman had also told the teacher that the boy was dying from leukaemia; that he had an eye tumour; that he needed a liver transplant; and that he suffered from Kawasaki disease. All these claims were lies.
The woman admitted the boy to the National University Hospital on 10 June that year for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan due to him suffering severe headaches, nausea, double vision, tinnitus, photosensitivity and numbness in his fingers. He was also reported to have a chronic history of intermittent fever, among other symptoms.
The woman's last injection for her son was done on 15 July, just before she took the boy to NUH again to have blood sugar levels monitored.
While at the hospital, a child life therapist spoke to the boy and was informed that the woman had been injecting him with medication from a pen. Hospital staff then confronted the woman, who admitted to the acts.
Woman a victim of her past: lawyer
Deputy Public Prosecutor Bhajanvir Singh sought at least six years' jail for the woman, stating that the woman harmed her son knowing that he could have died and that the boy's blood sugar levels had hit dangerously low levels.
The woman's lawyer, Ng Pei Qi, said that the woman's long-held trauma had been left untreated and was so deeply rooted that she saw her past abuser in her son.
Her actions were directly influenced by her mental disorders, with an Institute of Mental Health report showing showing that they substantially impaired her responsibility for her acts.
"(My client) is a slave to her PTSD, depression and Munchausen syndrome. She felt guilty with her actions. For example, she tried feeding him with snacks. To her mind she was countering the acts of insulin and believed the doctors would treat him," said Ng.
"The court is not sentencing a cold-blooded woman today who cannot move on from her past, but a victim whose trauma has caught up with her."
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