William Collins: Unexplained infant deaths

Interesting. An extract from near the end of the long piece:

There is little doubt that a non-trivial proportion of SIDs (Sudden Infant Deaths) are in fact homicide. Steven Kairys et al, Pediatrics February 2001, 107, Issue 2, observe,

“Recently, well-validated reports of child abuse and infanticide – perpetrated by suffocation and masqueraded as apparent life-threatening events (ALTE) and/or SIDS – have appeared in the medical literature and in the lay press.

Parents of infants with recurrent ALTEs have been observed trying to suffocate and harm their infants. In Great Britain, covert video surveillance was used to assess child abuse risk in 39 young children referred for evaluation of recurrent ALTEs. Abuse was revealed in 33 of 39 cases, with documentation of intentional suffocation observed in 30 patients. Among 41 siblings of the 39 infants in the studies, 12 had previously died suddenly and unexpectedly. Although 11 of these deaths had been classified as SIDS, 4 parents later admitted to suffocating 8 of these siblings. Other cases previously thought to be multiple SIDS deaths within a family have been revealed to be cases of multiple homicide by suffocation.”

Wolkind et al, Acta Paediatr 1993;82: 873-6 studied families with 2 or more cot deaths. They concluded that 55% of these were probably filicide (infanticide). However, it is not clear what conclusion we can draw from this as regards the frequency of homicide masquerading as SID in cases of just one SID in a family.

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