A significant proportion of infant and child deaths are preventable. Of the 55 861 deaths of children aged 14 and younger in the United States in 1989, more than three fourths occurred in children under the age of 2 years.1 Approximately one third of the latter were unexpected, including those due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or trauma, or deaths that were otherwise unexplained. Child abuse deaths occur in greatest numbers among infants, followed by those in toddlers and preschool children.2 Children younger than 6 years of age are most vulnerable to abuse because of their small size, incomplete verbal skills, and often limited contact with adults other than their primary caretakers.3
With few exceptions, throughout the United States there is no uniform system for the investigation of infant and child deaths. Many jurisdictions lack appropriately trained pathologists, interagency collaboration hat would facilitate sharing of information about the family, and a surveillance system to evaluate data regarding infant deaths. As a result, progress in the understanding of SIDS is inhibited, cases of child abuse and neglect may be missed, familial genetic diseases go undiagnosed, public health threats may be unrecognized, and inadequate medical care may be undetected. Lack of adequate infant and child death investigation is an impediment to preventing illness, injury and death of other children at risk.
Adequate death investigation requires the participation of numerous individuals including medical examiner/coroner, public health officials, the patient's physician, the pathologist, and personnel from agencies involved with child welfare and social services and law enforcement.
- Copyright © 1993 by the American Academy of Pediatrics