Let’s Hold Failure of the System Accountable for Tragedies Involving Infanticide

 *** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events***

I stumbled across this headline on my Twitter feed tonight:  “Three years for Edinburgh mum who killed her baby.”   Wasn’t planning on blogging, but when I clicked on the link to read the article, I was so infuriated that it has motivated me to blog.  Here’s yet another tragic loss from system failure and continued societal blindness to the realities of perinatal mood disorders.

I’ve blogged about this previously…that it seems way too common and easy for people to disassociate the baby from the mother.  That a tragedy like this–a mother named Erin Sutherland who suffered from severe postnatal depression (PND) who smothered her baby–occurred should be viewed from a BIG PICTURE perspective as another example of the system failing a mother AND her baby.  Not just the baby, but the mother as well.  Not just the mother, but the baby as well.

The father of the baby, estranged from Erin Sutherland, and his family felt it was unfortunate that the focus seems to have shifted from the real tragedy at hand….the loss of an innocent baby.  No one can/will contest this, but what people continuously forget is that, had the system NOT failed Erin, the baby would be alive because Erin would have received the treatment she desperately needed.  True, I don’t know the full story here, but the mere words coming out of the prosecutor Iain McSporran’s mouth: “generally speaking six months is a point beyond which PND will no longer be considered a factor” is RIDICULOUS.  Spouting such damning untruths is utterly shameful on his part. Had he bothered to get educated about perinatal mood disorders, those words would not have slipped out of his mouth a la angry let’s-lynch-the-mother-she’s-always-guilty-no-matter-what syndrome.  Mr. McSporran, if you had bothered to become educated about perinatal mood disorders, you would know that it is possible for severe PND to be possible up to the end of the 2nd year or whenever a mother decides to wean her baby.

Why would a mother be turned down for help because ludicrous “rules” state that after six months her condition was no longer deemed to be a “problem factor” for new mothers?  Why are such archaic rules still in existence?  They must be updated with scientific facts!   I thought Edinburgh is supposed to be more up-to-speed on perinatal mood disorders than we are in the states, what with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) originating from none other than….you guessed it, Edinburgh.  But I guess not!

How could anyone refuse treatment for a mother who is clearly suffering from PND and seeking help for it?!  Especially when the mother had previously received hospital treatment following the birth of an older daughter after being diagnosed with PND and becoming so ill that she needed in-patient care when her child was EIGHT months old! Last I looked EIGHT is more than SIX!!!

The system that created such a nonsensical “rule” is culpable for little Chloe’s death.  It left Erin with no treatment and sealed her and Chloe’s fate.  So terrible that I want to smack some sense into these ignorant lawmakers.  Get with the program! Get educated, for crying out loud!  This patriarchal system catering to old fashioned beliefs based on misogynistic, archaic thinking MUST GO NOW!

In a recent post that also involved another tragedy like this, I posted:

Women around the world continue to be viewed as baby incubators and milk machines, and as such, their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing do not matter in the grand scheme of things.  Their needs as new mothers don’t matter.  BUT THEY DO MATTER.

Mothers are more than incubators.  They are living, breathing, humans just like men are.  Just like babies are.  Heck, people seem to be very quick to forget one basic truth:  Without women, you can’t have babies.  Hellllooooo!  I see all the time hateful comments from the extreme right (here in this country) from women, of all things, picking on other women because they were raised brainwashed into believing misogynistic things that do nothing but damn themselves.  Well, I wish women would unbrainwash themselves.  Use their common sense, not have their religious zealotry make them blinder than bats.  It might make a huge difference once women sided with women, don’t you think?

6 thoughts on “Let’s Hold Failure of the System Accountable for Tragedies Involving Infanticide

  1. How angry my son and family are by articles such as yours . It is obvious you do not know the facts of this case and have made no attempt to ascertain the full facts before writing this truly dreadful innaccurate article.Erin Sutherland was treated with the utmost compassion by all concerned. The “system” may have failed her but there was help and support available from outside the system which she refused to accept or acknowledge. Erin Sutherland still has a future….our granddaughter does not .
    Family of Chloe


    • Ms Steedman,
      I am glad you stopped by my blog. I am extremely sorry for your loss and did not publish this to hurt your or anyone’s feelings but to express my anger over yet another fatality. Did I mention it was any fault of the friends/family….of course not. I would never do such a thing. I blame THE SYSTEM. From all accounts I read, it was another example (there have been too many lately) of the system failing a mother and her child(ren).

      Blogs are like journals of thoughts published by, in most cases, people who don’t make money off their blogs (my case) the way news outlets do. And it’s the news outlets that made this tragedy known worldwide via the Internet. At the time I wrote my blog post, every news article I read said the same thing, which is what I spoke to in my post. I am not a journalist, and it is not my job to go around interviewing people involved. So, your anger should not be directed at me for expressing my feelings on my personal blog about another tragic loss; rather, it should be directed at the news outlets who communicated news inaccurately and made those inaccuracies known for all the world to read.

      Again, I am extremely sorry for your loss. I am praying that, through all these senseless tragedies, there will be changes made across the world that will lead to long overdue understanding and proper assessment and treatment of perinatal mood disorders. A huge hurdle to overcome is STIGMA and the eagerness for people due to such stigma to judge, react incorrectly, etc. mothers in distress who need help and may or may not know how to go about getting the RIGHT help. Perinatal mood disorders do not go away with a snap of a finger. Serious conditions don’t disappear just because there is help with the baby. They need urgent, professional medical and/or psychiatric attention.


  2. Ivy
    Thank you for your reply, I take your point.
    There is much I would like to add about the details of this tragic case but for obvious reasons cannot, however I thought it might be of some small comfort to you to know that whilst a sentence of imprisonment was imposed, there is simply no prospect of Erin Sutherland spending even one night in prison because there was also an order transferring her to hospital where she can be expected to remain, receiving care and support (and regular visits from her children) with a view to helping her deal with the consequences of what happened.
    In addition, and because I did indeed become informed as to the very issues you mention, there is currently an enquiry into whether the rules as they existed are adequate. There remains the possibility of a judge-led enquiry.

    I do not pretend that this is a complete answer by any means but I hope that this might assure you that the law and lawyers are not blind to the tragedies which can afflict people.

    Best wishes


    • Iaian, thank you for the update on Erin’s situation! I sincerely hope all that you say is what is/will be happening. I truly hope positive changes benefiting mothers and their families will arise out of this tragedy.


  3. “True, I don’t know the full story here…”
    I rather think that any comment prefaced by those words should be rather more carefully considered than your undoubtedly well intentioned and well informed observations above.
    As a public servant I am not at liberty to indulge in a discussion or explanation about this truly tragic case, but let me assure you that in their proper context my reported comments were designed to highlight the very inconsistency which you refer to. By no means was I suggesting that there ought to be a six month cut off point, rather the intention was to explain that the failure to recognise that much longer periods could be involved had resulted in this woman, her baby and her wider family being let down.

    Far from spouting untruths, my intention had been to draw attention to them.

    I am fairly thick skinned as a prosecutor but the distress caused by my involvement in this case (and my perception that I was in some small way trying to help) has not been eased by your suggestion that I was spouting untruths in a shameful manner.

    I genuinely have no doubt about your good intentions but please don’t rush to judge when you do not have the full facts. If you were to ask Erin Sutherland’s counsel I think you would find that my approach from start to finish was as sympathetic as it could be.

    I wish you well in continuing to bring these serious issues to a wider public, but please don’t mistake friends for enemies.

    Iain McSporran, that Prosecutor


    • Thank you, Iaian, for leaving a comment that would normally not be as reasonably-worded as yours in light of the fact that it was being written by the very person I cast in a negative light in my blog post. I was going by a quote in the article. It’s too bad that the words you chose to use and your true intentions behind them were not correctly communicated in the article. While I realize you have a job to do, in this case prosecute Erin, the public has a right to their opinions. I personally would NEVER be able to be a prosecutor and live with what my profession requires me to do in cases like Erin’s, especially knowing what I know about perinatal mood disorders. Three years in prison for a mother who committed such a tragic act as a consequence of such systematic failure is unfair, to say the least. Don’t assume I’m making enemies out of friends when I don’t know you, just like you don’t know me. So, we’ll call it even Steven at this point (my assuming your lack of knowledge about perinatal mood disorders; your assuming I make enemies out of friends; both assumptions are based on nothing but posted words on the Internet). If the quote has been taken out of context by the individual who wrote that article and you are as genuine as you say you are in your distress about your involvement in the case, then I am sorry for my words. I am glad you are in agreement that there needs to be greater public awareness of such issues.


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