Mother Faces Prosecution For Drug Dependent Newborn - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

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Mother Faces Prosecution For Drug Dependent Newborn

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A 30-year-old mother is missing after giving birth to a baby born dependent on drugs.

The baby was born July 5: Only days after a new Tennessee law went into effect that charges pregnant women addicted to illegal drugs or narcotics with assault if their baby is born dependent on drugs or with criminal homicide if the newborn dies as a result.

“Our legislatures and the government went against the American Medical Association’s recommendations around this; major medical organizations,” said Allison Glass, Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights Organizer for Healthy and Free Tennessee.

Memphis police reported medical personnel determined Jamillah Washington’s baby was addicted to illegal drugs and notified DCS. MPD issued an arrest warrant for Washington on a Simple Assault charge.

“It needs to be addressed by medical experts and doctors who understand that addiction is an illness and it has to be treated with support; not these types of punitive behaviors,” said Glass, “Especially in rural counties and places where there aren’t those services available, what are these women supposed to do? So they’re going to end up in jail and end up costing taxpayers so much more money.”

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is the medical term when babies are born dependent on prescriptions and illegal drugs consumed by mothers during pregnancy.

“The fetus is exposed to them through the umbilical cord. So now when the baby is born you cut the umbilical cord, baby’s no longer getting the medicine,” said Dr. Ramasubbareddy Dhanireddy, Medical Director at Regional One Health’s Newborn Center and Medical Director at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

He said these babies are born suffering withdrawal symptoms including vomiting, irritability and are difficult to console. If the baby does not improve within a few days, doctors give the babies an opiate to help with a slower withdrawal.

“We have to gradually taper the medicine and it will take several weeks,” said Dhanireddy, adding this process takes between 25 days and two months, “When the baby’s ready to go home even while in the hospital, they need a lot of mothering.”

Glass said there are only nine health centers statewide that will treat drug addicted pregnant women.

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