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Forensic Sci Int. 2002 Nov 5;130(1):8-12.

Lethal child neglect.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Strasse 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany.


The jurisdiction of the Hannover Institute of Legal Medicine recently experienced an unusually high incidence of lethal child neglect, with three cases in a 5-month period in 1999. Case 1: A girl received an inappropriate and inadequate diet of tea and oatmeal. The child was never breastfed, nor did it ever receive any other formula. The parents report the infant to have been healthy until she suddenly began projectile vomiting at the age of 13 weeks. For the next 3 days the infant was not able to maintain an adequate intake. The mother reports finding the child dead in its bed on the morning of the fourth day. Attempts by medical personnel to revive the child were unsuccessful. Case 2: A mother began spoon-feeding the infant puree on the fourth day of life, which according to the manufacturer's specifications is suitable for children between 4 and 8 months of age. At the age of 5 weeks, the infant was reported to have vomited half the just previously ingested meal, after which she took a nap. Some time later the parents observed the infant to be quite pale, however, assumed this was a result of sleep. When the mother finally did pick her up, the child was lifeless, and the parents brought her to the hospital. Medical personnel could however, only declare the infant dead, documenting a rectal temperature of 30 degrees C. Case 3: A 3.5-year-old girl died after her mother left the locked apartment and did not return for several weeks. The body of the child was found lying dressed on the floor in a state of advanced decay and mummification. Common findings in all three cases include lack of prenatal care, home birth without the help of a midwife, low socioeconomic status or maternal alcohol abuse, body weights below the 3rd percentile, extreme dehydration, fatty hepatic degeneration, thymic atrophy and signs of aspiration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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