BC Coroners investigate sudden infant deaths

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Findings show most had been sleeping in an ‘unsafe’ environment. (FOTOLIA)

Findings show most had been sleeping in an ‘unsafe’ environment. (FOTOLIA)

An average of 23 infants die unexpectedly every year in British Columbia.

The BC Coroners Service’s investigation into those deaths has led to several recommendations to prevent similar cases in the future.

By examining 117 unexpected infant deaths between 2008 and 2012, the service found three-quarters of the babies were sleeping in an “unsafe” environment, such as on a sofa or an adult’s bed.

About 40% shared a sleep surface with an adult.

The service found the vast majority of the infants had died before reaching six months of age. Many had socio-economic problems in the family, such as a lack of adequate housing or income.

It’s also unclear why there were twice as many dead baby boys as there were girls. Just under a quarter of the infants were born prematurely.

The coroners service wants an “investigative protocol” for law enforcement probing unexpected baby deaths, standardized questions to ask at the death scene, access to 911 transcripts, and collection more data about the aboriginal population.

“In all 117 of the unexpected infant deaths reviewed, the infants were moved from where they were found,” the report said.

“As the infant has been moved, the coroner needs to reconstruct the circumstances where the infant was found unresponsive to help determine the cause of death.”

It also wants genetic testing to be done to help establish an infant’s cause of death. Infant safe sleep messaging was the third recommendation — to warn about the risks of bed sharing.






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