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Virtual Reality

This headline stopped me dead in my tracks: “Couple Let Baby Starve to Death While Raising Virtual Baby Online”. What? Wait- WHAT?! The tragedy of Korean couple Kim Yoo-chul, 41 and Choi Mi-sun, 25 has made headlines all over the world. CNN reports that the couple let their real daughter starve to death while playing a virtual-reality game where they raised a virtual daughter in 12-hour on-line sessions at a local internet cafe. “The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby, Chung Jin-Won, a police officer, told the Korean press. “They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.” The couple are likely facing charges of child abuse, child neglect and homicide.

Like most people I was perplexed by such recklessness. As a mother, I simply can’t imagine what would compel a parent to neglect a baby so drastically. But, as a criminal defense attorney who has represented many parents in criminal child abuse or child neglect cases, there are a few things troubling about this story. First and foremost, there’s no allegation that the baby was ever left unsupervised.

I can see this couple sitting in my office, distraught with grief, explaining that although they did frequently play an online game, most of their time spent at the internet cafe was looking at on-line job postings, emailing resumes and otherwise trying to find work while their daughter was watched by a relative or caregiver.

Second, this baby was premature and died at three months old. Depending on the level of prematurity, a well-nourished premature 3-month old baby might only weigh 10 pounds. My robust 13-month old child dropped 4 pounds in one week with a recent case of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. I tried to coax him with cookies and chocolate and when that failed, I tried to squeeze a syringe full of milk through his pursed lips. It was useless. Most doctors will tell you- you just can’t get a baby to eat if he’s not interested. Indeed, the father of the Korean baby stated: “I wish that she hadn’t got sick and that she will live well in heaven forever. And as the father, I am sorry.” I can see these parents saying that the baby refused to eat because she was sick.

If the baby was in fact sick and her parents neglected to get her proper medical attention, then there are of course, grounds for child abuse or child neglect charges. Regardless, having to endure the death of child and knowing that you could have prevented it is more punishment than any penal institution could ever dole out.

If you have been charged with a crime, visit Orange County Criminal Lawyer or call The Law Offices of Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 today.