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Int J Legal Med. 2013 May;127(3):621-5. doi: 10.1007/s00414-013-0841-8. Epub 2013 Mar 8.

Examination of (suspected) neonaticides in Germany: a critical report on a comparative study.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, Medical Faculty, University of Cologne, Melatenguertel 60/62, 50823 Cologne, Germany.


In cooperation with the Crime Investigation Agency (Landeskriminalamt) of North Rhine-Westphalia, we carried out a study of 150 cases of (suspected) neonaticide dating from 1993 to 2007 from all over Germany. The autopsy reports and additional expert opinions (if performed) were evaluated for a minimum of 78 variables. Emphasis was placed on the application of special preparation techniques and other special questions arising during the examination of a deceased newborn child. Forty-five percent of the cases remained unsolved, which means that the mother could not be identified. Twenty-seven percent of the corpses were in a state of such severe putrefaction that forensic examination was limited. The main causes of death were all forms of suffocation. The signs of maturity (such as length, weight, and fingernails) were recorded in more than 95 % of the cases. Hydrostatic test of the lung was performed in 96 %, and that of the gastrointestinal tract in 84 %. Given the results of the study, standard protocols and checklists are recommended to facilitate comparability and to ensure the completeness of findings. Full-body X-rays or CT scans should be used to complete viability examinations.

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