INFORMATION FOR PHYSICIANS AND HOSPITALS ON INFANT AND CHILD DEATHS
Injured and deceased children are seen in hospital emergency rooms and as inpatients. Hospital staff should report such incidents immediately to the law enforcement jurisdiction where the injury or death occurred so that the appropriate authorities can begin or complete an investigation as soon as practical.
Cases to Report to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME):
- All traumatic deaths regardless of the cause or manner. The time of survival from the trauma to the death is irrelevant if the injury caused or contributed to the death.
- All cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.
- Deaths of infants or children who die suddenly or unexpectedly without a known cause (a known cause of death is a natural chronic disease in a child where death is expected. For example, leukemia or other cancers). Otherwise, the sudden unexpected death of a child with chronic disease needs to be reported to the OCME.
- Deaths of infants and children who do not have a physician.
- Any death suspected of being due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Cases should be reported to the appropriate district office (Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke, Manassas).
The OCME medicolegal death investigator or Assistant Chief Medical Examiner will decide if the OCME has jurisdiction, and whether an autopsy will be performed. Please do not explain OCME policies to family members. The OCME office will answer hospital staff and family’s questions regarding case jurisdiction or case selection for autopsy.
Care of a Deceased Child if a Medical Examiner’s Case:
- All clothing and medications should be preserved and sent with the body to the medical examiner’s office.
- Save any admission blood and send with the body. If that is not possible, ask the laboratory to hold the blood for pick up by a medical examiner’s representative.
- DO NOT CLEAN THE DECEASED or remove any therapy item that is in place when death is pronounced.
- Do not alter the body in any way without permission of an Assistant Chief Medical Examiner (ACME) (e.g. removing a lock of hair, performing any other diagnostic procedures, etc.) to prevent the introduction of artifactual injury.
- Send the infant in any receiving linen, if present, and place in a clean body bag.
Viewing and Holding of the Infant or Child After Death if a Medical Examiner’s Case:
- Viewing may be done, if no physical contact with the deceased is allowed, while under supervision of hospital staff, as long as the infant is not altered in any way for this process except as approved by an Assistant Chief Medical Examiner.
- Holding of the infant by family members is prohibited unless authorized by an ACME. The ACME may impose specific restrictions depending on the circumstances of the death. Typical restrictions may include direct supervision of the contact by law enforcement personnel responsible for investigating the death. The infant may not be altered in any way without permission of an ACME.