Unexpected Infant & Child Death


The NAA Group of companies has a deep commitment to helping understand how and why infants and young children die.  The unexplained death of a baby or toddler is a terrible tragedy for families and for society on the whole.

What is SIDS? SUID?
“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” or SIDS, is a classification of infants deaths that has traditionally been used to describe the death of an infant (in the first year of life) which remains unexplained after a full investigation of the medical history, review of the death scene, and complete autopsy (including necessary “special studies”).

“Sudden Unexplained Infant death” or SUID is not a disease, but rather a system of classification that was more broadly inclusive for research purposes.  Examples include infants who might have accidently suffocated in their sleep environment, but this could not be proven by a thorough examination.

Although both SIDS and SUID have been treated as if they are discrete diseases, they are not.  They are systems of classification that have been useful for research and teaching purposes.  In forensic pathology, there is a movement away from the use of such terms, in favor of more specific cause of death labels.  In many cases, this means that the cause and manner of infant death are left “undetermined.”

What is SUDC?
“Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood” or SUDC is a label that is used to describe those cases where a child (whose age is greater than 12 months) dies suddenly, and a thorough review of the child’s history, death scene and circumstances and autopsy (including necessary “special studies”) fails to indicate the cause of death.  In some jurisdictions the death will be labeled as “SUDC”; in others it will be called “undetermined” in both cause and manner.

What is the problem?
There is a global shortage of forensic pathologists.  This means that the case load per pathologist is often times very high, and the State’s forensic pathologist (medical examiner, or coroner’s pathologist) may not have the time to be as thorough in their studies as is demanded by the nature of the case.  The apparently unexplained death of an infant or young child is a very special case; a tremendous amount of care, attention and time is required to identify potential causes of death.  Given that medical examiner and coroner’s offices are frequently inadequately funded, there may be no money to access expert level consultations, particularly of the brain, heart and lungs.  As such, the risk of suboptimal studies is high, and therefore there is a risk that explainable causes of death may be missed.

How do we help?
The NAA Group of companies will offer free neuropathology and cardiovascular/pulmonary pathology evaluations for any government-funded death investigation agency who requests our services.  Furthermore, legal next-of-kin of any deceased infant or young child can request a second opinion review from our group of expert pathologists, who are committed to helping identify the underlying cause of death with infants and young children who die suddenly. There is no fee for a next-of-kin requested review.

Why do you focus on the brain and heart/lungs?
Our collective experience has taught us that some apparently unexplainable infant and young child deaths can in fact be explained by a very detailed examination of the brain and heart/lungs. Why? For all intents and purposes, sudden death will be due to neurologic (brain) or cardiovascular (heart) problems.

We do not keep any tissues for research.
We are not a research agency.  All of our efforts are service driven toward scientifically defensible conclusions. We do not retain tissue for teaching or research purposes.  All of the examined tissue will be returned to the originating agency / next-of-kin (for burial/cremation).

We are committed to following published expert practice recommendations for SUID/SUDC deaths.
A growing body of expert-consensus and peer-reviewed scholarly literature eminently illustrates the competent practice of pediatric forensic pathology.  We advocate for aggressive, detail-oriented examinations that ensure the highest possible level diagnostic accuracy for forensic pathologists.  Click HERE for literature recommendations.