Newsday.com, February 2, 2001
Docs: Investigate SIDS Cases
The Associated Press
Chicago-The nation's largest group of pediatricians is recommending for the first time that all suspected cases of sudden infant death syndrome be investigated by a child abuse expert because of growing fears that some such deaths are murders.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the government already recommend death-scene investigations and autopsies for all SIDS cases.
But it is virtually impossible "to distinguish at autopsy between SIDS and accidental or deliberate asphyxiation with a soft object," said Dr. Kent Hymel, a member of the academy's child-abuse committee, which wrote the updated guidelines.
The new guidelines say that unless the autopsy examiner is a child abuse expert, a pre-autopsy exam should be performed by a specialist at a hospital emergency room. A prompt death scene investigation is also recommended.
While cases of parents killing their babies are rare, more thorough investigations would probably reveal that some suspected SIDS cases are murders, Hymel said.
The updated guidelines were published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics. They mostly reaffirm the guidelines issued by the 55,000-member academy in 1999.
The changes stem from a few highly publicized cases and a 1997 report from British researchers who documented an alarming number of parents trying to suffocate their babies.
Parents were caught on videotape trying to suffocate 30 out of 39 children hospitalized after unexplained or suspicious accidents at home. The researchers also learned that 11 of the children's siblings had supposedly died of SIDS; parents later admitted to suffocation in eight cases.
"Physicians don't want to consider these kinds of acts," Hymel said.
The revision was also prompted by the 1997 book "The Death of Innocents," about a New York state woman whose five children supposedly died of SIDS. She ultimately was convicted of smothering them all.
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