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The Case of the Very Difficult Mother

If a parent refuses help, can her children be guilty of elder abuse?

Drawing of an old couch. Elder neglect legal case.

Jury finds children guilty of a misdemeanor and felony. — Illustration by Gerald Dubois

The Verdict

A six-person jury found Stanley guilty of a misdemeanor, but convicted Barbara of attempted cruelty to the infirm, a felony. She received a five-year prison sentence of hard labor, but it was suspended to five years of supervised probation.

Barbara appealed. In 2004 the 2nd Circuit Court upheld the conviction, noting that Stanley and Barbara did make attempts to help their mother, but those attempts were not enough. "They had a duty to intervene on and insist that she either submit to their efforts at proper sanitation or go to a hospital or nursing home to be cared for by others."

Barbara's attorney, George Britton III, said he counted Barbara's conviction as one of the greatest injustices he had seen in his career.

Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.

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