Urgent need for better understanding of baby killings

Much stronger research evidence is urgently needed to help
identify suspicious sudden infant deaths, say doctors.

The research charity Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths
(FSID) has reviewed the existing research, and concluded that
current criteria used to detect covert baby killings are not robust
enough to allow definitive conclusions to be drawn. This is a very
dangerous situation both because of the risk both that parents may
be wrongly convicted of killing a baby, and also that infant
homicide is going undetected putting future children at risk.

FSID estimates that about one in 10 sudden unexplained deaths in
children under age one is homicide. Some of these are deliberate
killings, others are the result of neglect. The figures are based
on data from the Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths
in Infancy.

The report, published by the journal Archives of Disease in
Childhood, describes the current understanding of covert baby
homicide as “very inadequate” and recommends urgent new

They say all unexplained infant deaths should be investigated,

• a visit to the home by a paediatrician soon after the death
to talk with parents and inspect the scene,
• a post mortem to be carried out by a specialist paediatric
pathologist following set procedures and including tests for family
• a discussion of the case by all the professionals involved,
including family doctor and health visitor.

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