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Investigating sudden unexpected deaths in infancy and childhood and caring for bereaved families : an integrated multiagency approach

By Peter J. Fleming, Peter S. Blair, Peter Sidebotham and Tracy Hayler


The sudden unexpected death of an infant or child is\ud one of the worst events to happen to any family.\ud Bereaved parents expect and should receive appropriate,\ud thorough, and sensitive investigations to identify the\ud medical causes of such deaths. As a result, several parallel\ud needs must be fulfilled. Firstly, the needs of the family\ud must be recognised—including the need for information\ud and support. Further, there is the need to identify any\ud underlying medical causes of death that may have\ud genetic or public health implications; the need for a\ud thorough forensic investigation to exclude unnatural\ud causes of death; and the need to protect siblings and\ud subsequent children. Alongside this, families need to\ud be protected from false or inappropriate accusations.\ud Limitations in the present coronial system have led to\ud delays or failures to detect deaths caused by relatives,\ud carers, or health professionals. Several recent,\ud highly publicised trials have highlighted the possibilities\ud of parents facing such accusations. As a result of this the\ud whole process of death certification has come under\ud intense scrutiny.\ud We review the medical, forensic, and sociological\ud literature on the optimal investigation and care of\ud families after the sudden death of a child. We describe\ud the implementation in the former county of Avon of a\ud structured multiagency approach and the potential\ud benefits for families and professionals

Topics: HQ, RJ
Publisher: BMJ Group
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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