A Sebastopol woman endangered the life of a disabled child who was in her care by giving her unprescribed morphine, a court has heard.
Susan Lizzul, 54, pleaded guilty to reckless conduct endangering serious injury at the County Court in Ballarat on Wednesday.
Crown prosecutor Andrew Moore told the court Lizzul was the foster carer of a disabled child who became unwell with diarrhea, vomiting and seizures and was admitted to hospital.
The court heard the doctor observed the child in a 'wavering conscious state' in hospital overnight.
The doctor said the child responded quickly to the administration of a drug that reversed the effects of opioid drugs.
Had (the child) not received the initial intensive treatment and then subsequent 17 days of hospital treatment, it is my opinion the child would have died.Doctor
The court heard Lizzul was asked three times whether the child could have been exposed to codeine, morphine or any other opioid other than those prescribed to her.
In response, she said she was 'certain' the child had not been administered any other drugs.
Preliminary testing showed the child had high levels of morphine and codeine in their bloodstream and this had contributed to their unconscious state.
Doctors concluded the morphine must have been administered to the child shortly before their admission to hospital, as morphine does not remain in the blood long after administration.
Around a week later the doctor informed police the levels of opioid in the child's urine were consistent with the child being administered opioids or possible morphine based drugs.
The child was released from hospital after 17 days, including intensive care at the Royal Children's Hospital.
"It is my opinion the child's life was certainly endangered," a doctor had told police.
"Had (the child) not received the initial intensive treatment and then subsequent 17 days of hospital treatment, it is my opinion the child would have died."
Mr Moore said police found expired morphine that had been prescribed for Lizzul's deceased children in her garage during the execution of a search warrant.
The court heard Lizzul told police she did not administer morphine but did administer two doses of Painstop that contains codeine, during an interview.
Mr Moore said the child was in the sole care of Lizzul for the majority of the day and Lizzul was the only person who had both access to morphine and the opportunity to administer it within the time frame established.
"It is not the Crown case it was a malicious act, rather a reckless act done in the setting of her care for a profoundly disabled child," he said.
The court heard the child had since made a full recovery and returned to the full-time care of her parents after being discharged from hospital.
She was in a position of extreme trust in relation to the child and the child's family and that trust was breached.Andrew Moore, Crown prosecutor
The child's mother provided a written victim impact statement to the court that said the traumatic experience had caused a substantial amount of psychological distress.
"Susan Lizzul betrayed all of us. We believed (our child) would be safe," the statement said.
"We lost our capacity to trust any person or service with our child's care... The actions of Susan Lizzul have caused irreversible damage to our family."
Mr Moore said Lizzul's actions were 'extremely' dangerous and could have had 'disastrous' consequences had it not been for the assistance of good timing and excellent health care.
"She was in a position of extreme trust in relation to the child and the child's family and that trust was breached," he said.
Defence barrister Luke Barker said Lizzul was a woman of 'impeccable' character, had looked after disabled children for almost 40 years and continued to do so.
He said the offending happened while Lizzul was suffering crohn's disease and another serious condition, while caring for her mother who suffered cancer and the child during a time of illness.
Mr Barker said Lizzul was trained to administer morphine while her two children who suffered a genetic condition were in palliative care at her home.
He submitted Lizzul should be sentenced to a community correction order without conviction.
"Any suggestion Ms Lizzul would deliberately hurt (the child) in any way is wholly unsustainable," Mr Barker said.
"This has been an incredibly harrowing experience for her going through the criminal justice system."
Mr Moore said given Lizzul's lack of prior convictions and past treatment and care of disabled children, imprisonment would be 'overly harsh'.
Judge Meryl Sexton said Lizzul would be assessed for a community correction order and before she imposed a sentence on March 3.
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