Advertisement

Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 173–177 | Cite as

Infanticide and American criminal justice (1980–2018)

  • Margaret SpinelliEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Filicide

Abstract

Maternal infanticide, or the murder of a child in the first year of life by its mother, is a subject both compelling and repulsive. The victim is innocent, but the perpetrator may be a victim too. In the USA, mentally ill women who commit infanticide may receive long prison sentences or even the death penalty. England, Canada, Australia, and more than 20 European countries have “infanticide laws,” which provide more humane treatment and psychiatric care for mentally ill mothers who kill. One of the reasons for the sentences in the USA lies in our archaic insanity defense. In addition, the psychiatric community does not recognize perinatal illness as a formal diagnosis. Furthermore, general forensic psychiatrists who testify in the courtroom have little knowledge of perinatal illness. I suggest that it is time to invite psychiatrists and psychologists as clinicians and scientists to partner with our legal representatives in the courtroom in order to determine laws based on psychiatric facts and not conjecture. The voices of perinatal mental health advocates must continue to be heard in all courtrooms of the USA.

Keywords

Infanticide Neonaticide Postpartum psychosis Insanity defense 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The article does not contain studies with human participants or animals performed by any authors.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association (1968) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2nd edn. American Psychiatric Press Inc, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association (1980) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM3), 3rd edn. American Psychiatric Press Inc, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association (1987) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM3-R), 3rd edn. revised. American Psychiatric Press Inc, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM4), 4th edn. American Psychiatric Press Inc, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  5. American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM5), 5th edn. American Psychiatric Press Inc, Washington DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergink V, Burgerhout KM, Weigelt K, Pop VJ, de Wit H, Drexhage RC (2013) Immune system dysregulation in first-onset postpartum psychosis. Biol Psychiatry 73(10):1000–1100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Garrick ML (2010) Bloodletting 1854. Am J Psychiatry 167(12):1435–1436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jones I, Craddock N (2007) Searching for the puerperal trigger: molecular genetic studies of bipolar affective puerperal psychosis. Psychopharmacol Bull 40(2):115–128PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Leong B (2008) Revisiting the deific-decree doctrine in Washington state. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 36(1):95–104PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Lewandowski KE, Cohen BM, Keshavan MS, Öngür D (2011) Relationship of neurocognitive deficits to diagnosis and symptoms across affective and non-affective psychoses. Schizophr Res 133(1–3):212–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Oberman M (2004) Mothers who kill: coming to terms with modern American infanticide. DePaul J Health Care L 8(1). Available at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/jhcl/vol8/iss1/3. Accessed 17 June 2018
  12. PA-100-0574 (formerly known as HB1764) was signed by Governor Rauner on January 8th 2018.Jan 8, 2018 Legislation | Postpartum Support - PSI,www.postpartum.net/professionals/legislation/ (Accessed April 2, 2018)
  13. Robertson E, Jones I, Haque S, Holder R, Craddock N (2005) Risk of puerperal and non-puerperal recurrence of illness following bipolar affective puerperal (postpartum) psychosis. Br J Psychiatry 186:258–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Shapiro DL, Mixon L, Jackson M, Shook J (2015) Psychological expert witness testimony and judicial decision making trends. Int J Law Psychiatry 42-43:149–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sit D, Rothschild A, Wisner K (2006) A review of postpartum psychosis. J Womens Health 15(4):352–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Spinelli M (2002) Infanticide: Psychosocial and legal perspectives on mothers who kill. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Spinelli M (2004) Maternal infanticide associated with mental illness: prevention and the promise of saved lives. Am J Psychiatry 161(9):1548–1557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Spinelli MG (2016) An infanticide trial: US infanticide laws fall well short of international standards. J Clin Psychiatry 77(11):1546–1547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Wisner KL, Peindl K, Hanusa BH (1994) Symptomatology of affective and psychotic illnesses related to childbearing. J Affect Disord 30(2):77–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia University College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations