Friday, 24 June 2011

SIDS: Alabama: Alabama now has a law setting up unexplained infant death investigation teams so that the state can reduce preventable baby deaths

 June 23, 2011,  
When a bill manages to pass both the Alabama Senate and House without a no vote in either chamber, you know the bill must be one long overdue.
Such is the case with the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Act, which got final approval on the last day of the legislative session earlier this month.
The state already has child death review teams that take a look at most child deaths.
This latest bill, sponsored by state Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and state Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison County, focuses on investigating unexplained baby deaths.
Often, when an infant less than a year old dies unexpectantly, the assumption was that most of the deaths were from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. In fact, in some cases, a baby suffocates when sleeping with a larger person, or an infant could even be the victim of abuse, shaken by a parent or a caregiver in anger.
This law mandates training for law-enforcement officers who respond to an infant death scene, so that the information gained can assist a medical examiner in determining an actual cause of death.
The new Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Team will be a subcommittee of the existing Child Death Review Team within the state Department of Public Health.
That is the right home. Among the SUIDI team responsibilities: establish the protocol for investigating infant deaths; develop and maintain training standards and policies involving infant death investigations; approve the standardized reporting form and procedures; and make sure law-enforcement agencies, coroners and deputy coroners are trained in investigations and reporting.
Fortunately, the Alabama team won't have to start from scratch. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines, reporting forms, training standards and other tools that should help the state group set up a good investigation team.
If state policymakers know the actual reasons for infant deaths, they can propose regulations, laws and public education campaigns that help reduce preventable infant deaths.
The more that is learned about how infants die in the home, the less mysterious it will be. Many states have had similar sudden infant death investigation teams for a while; it's encouraging that Alabama has now joined their ranks.

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