Mother Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter After Failing to Treat Her Daughter's Diabetes
When a child is diagnosed with a health condition, oftentimes it’s the role of their parent or guardian to help provide medication, treatment and care until they are old enough to manage the condition on their own. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
On Thursday, Amber Hampshire, a mother from Illinois, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the life or health of a child after concealing and failing to treat her 14-year-old daughter’s diabetes for five years. Emily Ikue-Rose Hampshire died on November 3 due to diabetic ketoacidosis.
Emily was first diagnosed with diabetes in November 2013 at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She and her mother were both informed and given instructions for managing the condition, according to medical records obtained by the Alton Telegraph.
Emily was admitted to St. Louis Children’s Hospital again in February 2018 with pneumonia and diabetic ketoacidosis. Medical records show she was treated and prescribed insulin as a “routine medicine,” and she and her mother were both educated on her medical and dietary needs. Though she had three follow-up appointments scheduled, Emily’s mother failed to bring her to any of them. Authorities say there is no evidence Emily’s insulin prescription was filled.
Paramedics were called to Emily’s home on November 1 when her parents found her unresponsive, after being sick the two previous days. By the time paramedics arrived, Emily was in cardiac arrest. Emily was taken to a local hospital, then flown to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis as her condition deteriorated. She died two days later from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
DKA is a complication of diabetes that occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells. This causes the body to begin to break down fat as fuel, producing a buildup of acids in the bloodstream called ketones. If left untreated, this buildup can lead to DKA and may be fatal.
According to an affidavit filed with a search warrant by the Alton Police Department, Amber told the Cardinal Glennon medical staff that Emily had been hospitalized earlier in the year for pneumonia and high blood sugar, “but insulin was not needed and she was never prescribed insulin.” Amber refused to authorize the release of Emily’s medical records from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“It’s so unusual and sad and a completely preventable death,” Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas D. Gibbons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There were plenty of doctors along the way providing information on what to do with a treatable, manageable illness that many people live out their lives with.”
According to Gibbons, police investigators believe Amber didn’t tell anyone about her daughter’s diabetes diagnosis – including her husband. Amber also told administrators at Emily’s school they could disregard the medical plan they were given for her diabetes, saying the diagnosis was “incorrect.”
Investigators found diabetes medication, equipment and informational packets when they searched the Hampshires’ home, though none of it had been used.
Gibbons said, “The charges allege that [Amber] unintentionally killed her daughter by committing acts which were likely to cause death or great bodily harm. The investigation indicates very strongly that the defendant took repeated, substantial steps to conceal the disease from everyone around her.”
If Amber is convicted, she will face a penalty of three to 14 years for the involuntary manslaughter charge and a penalty of two to 10 years for the child endangerment charge. Prosecutors are uncertain what Hampshire’s motive may have been.
Though the World Health Organization estimated in 2016 that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, many diabetes-related deaths, including Emily’s, are often preventable with proper treatment and continuous management of the condition.
For the approximately 1.25 million American children living with type 1 diabetes, managing the condition typically requires the child’s parent/guardian to play an active role in their child’s healthcare. “I think it’s absolutely essential for a parent/caregiver to be involved in helping their child learn to manage a chronic illness,” Mighty contributor Nichole Acosta, who lives with type 1 diabetes, told The Mighty. She continued:
That means informing school administrators, babysitters, friends and family what to do in case of high or low blood sugar emergencies if the child becomes incapable of treating themselves. It means keeping track of your child’s insulin, test strip, injection method (pump, pen, syringes etc.) prescriptions, and appointments with endocrinologist or at least a primary care provider are made so the child can be empowered to manage day to day on their own and with the help of others.
In response to Emily’s death, Acosta added, “While it can be a natural reaction to want to hide your kid’s differences from others for fear of the stigma, it is unacceptable to ignore a diagnosis, symptoms and complications and disregard resources provided.”
Image via Emily Hampshire Fundraiser on Facebook