Trial of mother accused of child neglect hears baby Heidi had ‘devastating brain injury’


Two days after she was admitted to hospital a two-year-old toddler was shown to have sustained a severe brain injury, a court has heard.

hief state pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told Judge Orla Crowe and a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that a scan showed baby Heidi Douglas had a “devastating brain injury”, having been admitted to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin on April 14, 2016.

Dr Mulligan was giving evidence on Friday on the second day of the trial of Heidi’s mother, Sadie Douglas who is charged with child neglect leading to death. Sadie Douglas (39) of Rathsallagh Drive, Shankill, Co Dublin has pleaded not guilty.

The trial has heard that Ms Douglas’ partner, who is not before the court, was a recovering heroin addict and was taking daily doses of methadone – a heroin substitute obtained on prescription from a local chemist – in quantities to cover a week’s supply.

Heidi was found, apparently unconscious, on her parents’ bed in the Rathsallagh Drive house in the middle of the afternoon on April 14 and was taken subsequently to hospital by ambulance.

Dr Mulligan told the court that Heidi’s brain had swollen so much it was pushing down onto the spinal column. Her condition continued to deteriorate and on April 19 she was assessed to be clinically dead. Life support was withdrawn and death was confirmed at 18.34 on that day.

Dr Mulligan said that as a result of a post mortem examination which she carried out, she concluded that the child had acute cerebellitis, an inflammation of the brain, which was “most likely” caused by her having ingested methadone, resulting in her death.

She added that because the child had been comatose for a number of days, she had also developed bronchial pneumonia which would also have been terminal.

She said that Heidi had otherwise been a “normal healthy two-year-old girl”.

A pharmacist, Richard Geoghegan, who at the time worked at Lloyds Pharmacy in Shankill, gave evidence of Ms Douglas’ partner obtaining his weekly supply of methadone every Thursday.

The first 70ml dose of his weekly 490ml supply was always taken in a special room at the pharmacy, the remainder of the drug being taken away by the patient in a bottle that had a child proof top.

Pharmacies supplied a measuring cup for patients, each of whom signed service agreements, governing the relationship between patient and chemist, behaviour at the pharmacy and use of the methadone, said Mr Geoghegan.

The agreement, which patients signed, contained three warnings, one of which was: “Be aware that 5 mils of methadone can kill a child”, the court heard.

The trial continues on Monday.

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