Background: Children under the age of 15 years constitute over 40% of the population in developing countries of the world including Nigeria. Deaths in this age group also contribute over 40% of total mortality in the general population; a significant proportion of these deaths is of medicolegal importance.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the frequency and pattern of medicolegal deaths during childhood period.
Methods: The study was a retrospective analysis of all autopsies performed in children less than 15 years of age by the Police Pathologist attached to the Police Medical Unit in Benin City between January 1998 and December 2002. We analysed the deaths by age, sex, and circumstance of death.
Results: Ninety-four medicolegal deaths occurred in children under 15 years of age during the period under review. Eighty (85.1%) were sudden unnatural deaths (SUDs) while 14(14.9%) were sudden unexpected natural deaths (SUNDs). Causes of SUDs were accidents 72 (90%), homicides seven (8.8%) and suicide one (1.2%). The major causes of SUNDs were infections seven (50%) and haemodynamic disorders three (21.5%).
Conclusion: Preventable accidental deaths make up most of the medicolegal childhood deaths in our environment. These deaths can be reduced if adequate measures backed up by favourable government policies are put in place.