Antidepressant drugs prescribed
to a mother contributed substantially to her two attempts to
kill herself and her two young children by gassing them in the
family car, Chief Justice David Malcolm has ruled.
32-year-old woman, whose name is suppressed, walked free from
the Supreme Court yesterday with a four-year jail term
suspended for two years after pleading guilty to four counts
of attempting to murder her daughters, then aged nine and two.
She made separate murder-suicide attempts near Waroona and
Pinjarra on June 17 last year.
Justice Malcolm found
the medication affected her mental state and "substantially
contributed" to the offences.
"The drug . . . impaired
her capacity for rational thought to such a degree that her
responsibility for her actions was substantially diminished
and her capacity for rational thought and action was gravely
impaired," he said.
Justice Malcolm described the woman
as a loving mother who cared for her children and said her
prospects of recovery were reasonably good due to the support
of family and friends.
The Department of Community
Development would determine whether and when she could resume
care of her children, who had suffered considerable
The woman has already had supervised access
visits to her children, who live with her father.
was also sentenced to intensive supervision orders and 80
hours community work. The woman, who lives near Bunbury, wept
in the dock and hugged her father in the public gallery after
being sentenced. The court was told she had a history of
depression and was prescribed high doses of Aropax
(paroxetine), a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, and
Efexor (venlafaxine), a serotonin noradrenaline re-uptake
inhibitor, in the months before the offences.
were increased after the first of her four suicide attempts in
The drugs are also marketed under the names
Prozac and Zoloft.
Renowned British critic of
antidepressants David Healy, who examined the woman's case,
concluded that it showed diminished responsibility resulting
from the drugs.
Outside court, the woman's father said
he saw a marked improvement in his daughter's health after she
stopped taking the drugs.
He said authorities should
provide warnings on the drugs and doctors should monitor
patients and make them aware of possible side effects.
Patients should also question any increase in the drugs if
their condition was not improving.
He said he hoped she
would be reunited with her children.