The death of a child under whatever circumstance is tragic. When the death is as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the pain of the loss aggravates due to the mystery and ignorance about the illness. Despite the agony of the deaths mystery, the parents of the victims of SIDS have to face further questioning from the authorities which are often tainted with suggestions of blame and negligence and frequently mount emotional pressure on the already grief-stricken parents. However, with cases of increasing child abuse and homicides, the investigators have to subject the parents to the agonizing process to find out the real cause of death.
SIDS is diagnosed automatically when the cause of death cannot be identified after a comprehensive investigation including forensic autopsy, death scene investigation, and a review of family health history (Alm, Lagercrantz & Wennergren, 2007). SIDS mainly strikes when babies are asleep due to breathing problems. The investigators consider details such as the type of sleeping surface of the baby, the items in the crib, the smokers in the house, bed sharing with babies, and the positioning of the baby during sleep.
When investigating a possible SIDS death, the investigator should first arm himself with investigation tools such as body bags, evidence tapes, gloves, and notebooks. On arrival at the scene, he should introduce himself to the investigation participants, ensure scene safety, confirm the death, participate in scene briefing and conduct a walkthrough to get an overview of the scene. The second step is documenting the scene by taking photographs, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. The next step is documenting and evaluating the body by conducting a post-mortem, photographing the body etc (Koehler, 2013). The other step is establishing the infant’s profile information such as its medical history, caregiver’s mental health history, and the terminal episode history. Finally, the investigator completes the investigations, releases jurisdiction of the body and formally closes the investigations.
In conclusion, SIDS warrants a thorough and evidence-based investigation to identify the real cause of death so as to prevent such deaths in future and also to ensure that children are protected from avoidable hazards and also abuse.
Alm, B., Lagercrantz, H., & Wennergren, G. (2007). Stop SIDS – sleeping solitary supine, sucking soother, stopping smoking substitutes. Acta Paediatrica, 95(3), 260-262. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2006.tb02223.x
Koehler, S. (2013). Covert homicide: When SIDS is not SIDS, the reason for the missed identification. Paediatrics Today, 9(1), 13-23. doi: 10.5457/p2005-114.57