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Home » Kathleen Folbigg’s son may have died from undiagnosed neurological condition, Dr Monique Ryan tells inquiry

Kathleen Folbigg’s son may have died from undiagnosed neurological condition, Dr Monique Ryan tells inquiry

by News Desk

Paediatric neurologist and federal MP Dr Monique Ryan has told an inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg that one of her sons may have died from an undiagnosed neurological disorder.

Dr Ryan, who was the head of neurology at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital before entering politics last year, said the death of Folbigg’s son Patrick at 8 months old could be linked to epileptic seizures.

Folbigg is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2003 of the murder of three of her children, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, and the manslaughter of her son Caleb.

A second judicial inquiry is currently looking into Folbigg’s convictions after it was discovered two of Folbigg’s children, Sarah and Laura, had inherited a previously unknown genetic mutation linked to sudden and unexpected infant death. Folbigg maintains that all four of her children died of natural causes.

In October 1990, Patrick presented to hospital after an apnoeic episode. He survived but was diagnosed with epilepsy and cortical blindness.

He died on February 18, 1991 at 8 months old. An autopsy found the cause of death to be an acute asphyxiating event resulting from an epileptic fit.

Folbigg was found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Patrick on October 18, 1990. 

Dr Ryan said Patrick’s presentation at the hospital in October 1990 was atypical for an infant who had suffered from an inflicted injury.

Dr Ryan said it was more likely that Patrick had suffered a seizure, which was the first presentation of underlying neurological disorder. 

“I think it’s more likely he had an underlying condition that first manifested on that date,” she said.

Dr Ryan did not rule out that Patrick had suffered a single hypoxic ischaemic insult, a brain injury caused by lack of oxygen or blood flow in October 1990, but did say it was unlikely. 

Dr Ryan had previously given evidence at an inquiry into Folbigg’s convictions in 2019. 

Professor Peter Fleming, a world-renowned paediatric intensivist, also gave evidence on Tuesday, and said it was unlikely that the children could be suffocated with no signs of injury on the insides of their lips. 

Professor Fleming said children who are being suffocated normally put up a fight and would have signs of injury in the mouth from their teeth. Folbigg’s children did not have these injuries, he told the inquiry.

“I personally would find it almost impossible to believe that a child … who is having their airway obstructed by something being put over their face would not fight vigorously and injure the inside of the lip,” he said.

“I can’t say it’s impossible, but I would say that from my experience of resuscitating children of that age it’s very hard to do anything without damaging the inside of the lip on the anterior teeth.”

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