An Australian mother trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) did not try to revive her two-year-old girl rescued from the backyard inflatable pool, an inquest was told Monday. The 'drowning death' happened in a Sydney Northern Beaches home in December 2007.
Several months earlier the girl had been diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects girls almost exclusively.
The clinical features include small hands and feet and a deceleration of the rate of head growth. Repetitive hand movements, such as wringing and/or repeatedly putting hands into the mouth, are also noted. Girls with Rett syndrome are prone to gastrointestinal disorders and up to 80% have seizures. They typically have no verbal skills, and about 50% of females are not ambulatory. Spinal disorder, growth failure, and constipation are very common in them.
The coroner's inquiry has heard the girl's parents, who cannot be named, had told Department of Community Service (DoCS) case workers several times they were not coping with their daughter's disability.
An officer who attended the scene of the drowning, Detective Constable Derryn Cairns, told the court he was very suspicious of the reaction of both parents. DoCS has been looking for a foster home placement for the little girl just weeks before she died.
Deputy State Coroner Scott Mitchell also heard the girl's parents had inquired about "options", including euthanasia, before her death.
During a meeting with medical specialists and authorities in September 2007, the mother mentioned committing suicide by jumping off a cliff holding the girl, and the father asked about "any legal or medical support for euthanasia in Australia".
He was told that any such action would constitute murder.
"(The father) continued to express angry thoughts about (the girl), having to live with (her)," Sergeant Stephen Kelly told the court.
"Why do they keep children with these disabilities alive?" the father is quoted as saying.
"It doesn't seem fair on the child, I need to protect myself, I cannot cope with it. This is out of range, we are two hippies living in a house playing guitar."
During another meeting with authorities, the mother said the girl would be "safe if she was dead" and wanted help "to find a lethal injection for that to occur".
On the day of her death, the girl's mother said the youngster disappeared while her breakfast was being prepared, sparking a frantic search which didn't include the inflatable pool because the woman thought it was covered.
There was also doubt that the girl could have climbed alone the steep stairs to the garden level where the pool was located.
The girl's grandmother found her a short time later but neither woman started CPR.
Was it by accidental drowning or was it by deliberate act, and if it was a deliberate act ... did that arise because of the threats that had been made by the parents leading up to the death that (the girl) would be better off dead than alive with Rett Syndrome?
The inquest will perhaps decide.