West Virginia v. Louk (Signed Opinion)Annotate this Case
On June 11, 2013, Louk, then 37 weeks pregnant, injected methamphetamine into her arm. A few hours later,. Louk experienced breathing problems and went to Summersville Hospital. Dr. Lester treated Louk and testified that Louk presented to the emergency room with acute respiratory distress which was caused by her methamphetamine use. Due to concerns about the fetus being deprived of oxygen, Dr. Rostocki performed an emergency Cesarean section and delivered the child, Olivia Louk, who was born “essentially brain dead.” Olivia “had no movement, no spontaneous respirations, and they had to immediately put her on a ventilator to help her breathe.” Olivia died 11 days after she was born. Louk was convicted of child neglect resulting in death, W.Va. Code 61-8D-4a , and sentenced to three to fifteen years of incarceration. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed. The child neglect resulting in death statute is not intended to criminalize a mother’s prenatal act that results in harm to her subsequently born child. Recognizing “that there may be significant policy implications and social ramifications surrounding the present issue,” the court confined its review to the plain language of the statute.