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A woman from the Western Galilee was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of attempting to asphyxiate her 17-year-old son, who has muscular dystrophy, in his hospital bed. A Haifa court extended the woman's remand by 24 hours yesterday and ordered her to undergo psychiatric examination.

The son told police detectives that his mother visited him at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa late Monday night and tried to block his breathing tube. His mother denies the allegations.

Family members who attended the remand hearing yesterday said the suspect is a devoted mother and that the son had recently begun hallucinating about his own death as a result of medications he is taking.

"This woman will get into heaven solely on the basis of her devotion to her son," the suspect's brother said. "She couldn't possibly have tried to hurt him. For years she has taken care of him, never saying a word, neglecting herself, she didn't care whether she ate or not - all she cared about was taking care of her son. There's no hospital in the country that she didn't go to."

The suspect's husband and father of the alleged victim said the boy is the youngest of seven children, two boys and five girls, and has suffered from muscular dystrophy since the age of seven. "It's true that the treatments are rough, but I don't believe my wife is capable of even thinking of something like that. We support her and stand behind her," he said.

The head of Rambam's Pediatrics B ward, Prof. Riva Brik, said yesterday that her staff is quite familiar with the boy from previous hospitalizations. She said he was admitted a few days ago with pneumonia and had complained of chest pains.

"This is a mother who cares for her son 24 hours a day," Brik said. "On Tuesday the medical staff noticed that the boy was in respiratory distress and the monitor showed a sharp decline in his oxygen levels."

Brik said that medical personnel attributed the boy's problem to the pneumonia, until he told a nurse that his mother had tried to asphyxiate him by blocking the breathing tube inserted in his throat.

"In these kinds of situations we do our job: We brought in a social worker, who sat with the boy, and after she was satisfied that he was sticking with his story we contacted the hospital security officer, who then called the police," Brik said. She added that the boy had exhibited signs of emotional distress over the past few days and had met with a psychiatrist.