chapter  24
10 Pages

Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths


The classification “sudden infant death syndrome” was created from a National Institutes of Health consensus committee who recognized that some infant deaths shared similar features and were otherwise unexplained. The SIDS classification is assigned to infant deaths that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation, autopsy, and review of the clinical history (Willinger et  al., 1991). The term was originally intended to place sudden unexpected deaths of infants into a category of exclusion to facilitate case tracking and research. In practical use, the classification became a diagnosis, and implied that SIDS was due to underlying natural disease processes. However, as scene investigation improved, forensic pathologists have realized that this is a far more heterogeneous group of infants, consisting of cases of undiagnosed natural diseases, accidental suffocations associated with unsafe sleep environments, and even covert homicides.