When Dawa Lama, 24, gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the bathroom at a
Queens hospital last year, she could have easily turned him over to
hospital staff if she felt she couldn’t care for him. But she didn’t
— she threw him in a trashcan in the bathroom at the hospital. He died seven days later — and now
Lama is heading to prison.
Lama was in Queens Criminal Court today, where Judge Elisa Koenderman sentenced her to 10 years in prison. Lama pleaded guilty in March to one count of first-degree manslaughter
in the May, 2011, death of the newborn, who was posthumously named
“Today’s sentence brings to a close a troubling case of a mother
senselessly and needlessly killing her newborn infant,” Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown says. “This case should
serve as a reminder that under New York’s Safe Haven law a parent may
anonymously surrender an unwanted newborn infant to personnel in a safe
place – such as a hospital, a police station or a fire station – without
Lama, who kept her pregnancy a secret from her family, went
to the Elmhurst Hospital on May 10 of last year to register for prenatal
According to Brown, after checking into the hospital, Lama started
experiencing pain in her abdomen and back, and went to use the restroom.
While in the bathroom, Lama gave birth to her son, whom, the district attorney’s office says, was born “alive and
full term with no obvious deformities.”
Lama then removed the umbilical cord and threw the baby in a trash can
— again, New York’s “Safe Haven Law” allows a mother to drop a baby off
at a hospital, fire station, or police station and not face any charges
as long as it’s done within five days of the baby’s birth. Despite
already being in a hospital, Lama threw the kid in the garbage like a
piece of trash.
Lama then left the bathroom, stopping at the front desk of the hospital to pick up her ID before leaving the building.
The baby was discovered later that day when hospital staff found blood
on the floor in the bathroom. He was placed on life support for a week,
but ultimately died.
Moral of the story: if you give birth in a hospital bathroom, give the baby to a nurse — don’t dump it in a trashcan.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 14, 2012