Academic Forensic Pathology

The Official Publication of the National Association of Medical Examiners

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Title: Ten Percent of SIDS Cases Are Murder — Or Are They?
Author(s): Milroy Christopher M.Kepron Charis
Citation: Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Jun; 7(2):163-170.
Type: Invited Review
Keywords: Forensic pathology SIDS Infant Death Homicide Multiple
Abstract: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been used as a cause of death for over four decades. It has allowed deaths of infants to be registered as natural. Within this group of deaths, a certain number have been recognized to be homicides from inflicted smothering rather than being natural or accidental deaths. Research has been conducted using confidential inquires to determine how frequent homicide is in cases called SIDS. This paper traces the history of quoted rates of homicide. Early work suggested the figure was between 2–10% of all SIDS cases, though other workers have suggested figures as high as 20–40%. With the fall in the rate of infant deaths following the “Back to Sleep” campaigns, these figures have been reevaluated. If the higher figures were correct that 20–40% of SIDS were homicides, the fall in infant deaths would be expected to be less than it has been. Current data suggests a much lower figure than 10% of current cases, with much lower overall rates of infant deaths.As well as 10% of SIDS cases having been stated to be homicides, a related question is whether multiple deaths classified as SIDS are really homicides. The paper discusses the maxim that one death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, and three deaths indicate homicide. The paper also looks at court cases and the approach that has been made in prosecutions of sudden unexpected death in infancy as multiple murder.
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