Assigning cause for sudden unexpected infant death

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2015 Jun;11(2):283-8. doi: 10.1007/s12024-014-9650-8. Epub 2015 Jan 30.


We have reached a conundrum in assigning cause of death for sudden unexpected infant deaths. We summarize the discordant perspectives and approaches and how they have occurred, and recommend a pathway toward improved consistency. This lack of consistency affects pediatricians and other health care professionals, scientific investigators, medical examiners and coroners, law enforcement agencies, families, and support or advocacy groups. We recommend that an interdisciplinary international committee be organized to review current approaches for assigning cause of death, and to identify a consensus strategy for improving consistency. This effort will need to encompass intrinsic risk factors or infant vulnerability in addition to known environmental risk factors including unsafe sleep settings, and must be sufficiently flexible to accommodate a progressively expanding knowledge base.

MeSH terms

  • Asphyxia / diagnosis
  • Asphyxia / etiology
  • Bedding and Linens / adverse effects
  • Beds / adverse effects
  • Cause of Death
  • Channelopathies / genetics
  • Consensus
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep
  • Sudden Infant Death / classification*
  • Sudden Infant Death / diagnosis
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Terminology as Topic