Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Investigating infant deaths

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 27 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:206

Rapid Response:

Gold Standards

My Gold Standards are these:

That all newborns are screened for the top 20 genetic and metabolic
disorders known to contribute to the sudden deaths of infants. Let's
start preventing some of these deaths.

That when any infant dies there is a full investigation into the
cause of that death, including taking a family history and if applicable
genetic screening of other family members. Had this been done in both
Patel and Cannings huge amounts of precious resource both in man hours and
cost would have been saved, which could have been used to detect genuine
cases of child abuse, not to mention the harm caused to both families.

That ALL histopathology is scrutinised with care and disclosed to
everyone involved; had this happened in the Clark case then it is unlikely
that Sally, Steve and their surviving son would have suffered all that
they have.

That when there is no history of abuse, or the family has never given
cause for concern with any of the agencies involved in child protection,
that the parent is not hauled down to a police station whilst still trying
to comprehend the death of their child.

That toxicology is performed as a matter of routine, especially in
cases in which a baby has been prescribed drugs known to trigger Long QT
or seizures.

That theory and speculation are prevented from becoming the main
source of the evidence against a parent.

That the police investigate every case, with integrity and
thoroughness and not to rely on anything other than solid scientifically
validated forensic evidence.

That when an expert has made a mistake, they immediately, as is their
duty, inform all relevant bodies.

That experts bought into the case carry out their duty to the courts
or the coroner and not to any particular side or belief sets.

That the medical profession understand that all that is required of
them is to independently scrutinise all the facts of a case with care.

That people understand that making a false allegation based upon a
theory when the family has surviving children, exposes the surviving
children to the most dreadful emotional abuse.

And my final Gold Standard would be that no paediatrician would ever
put the fear of a complaint before the life of a child.

Competing interests:
Campaigner against false allegations of MSbP etc.

I helped the defence in both the Cannings and Clark Appeals and in the Cannings criminal trial

Competing interests: No competing interests

29 January 2005
Penny Mellor
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