Identifying Child Abuse Fatalities During Infancy
When a healthy infant dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it is critical to correctly determine if the death was caused by child abuse or neglect. Sudden unexpected infant deaths should be comprehensively investigated, ancillary tests and forensic procedures should be used to more-accurately identify the cause of death, and parents deserve to be approached in a nonaccusatory manner during the investigation. Missing a child abuse death can place other children at risk, and inappropriately approaching a sleep-related death as maltreatment can result in inappropriate criminal and protective services investigations. Communities can learn from these deaths by using multidisciplinary child death reviews. Pediatricians can support families during investigation, advocate for and support state policies that require autopsies and scene investigation, and advocate for establishing comprehensive and fully funded child death investigation and reviews at the local and state levels. Additional funding is also needed for research to advance our ability to prevent these deaths.
- Copyright © 2019 by the American Academy of Pediatrics