Presentations from ASIP’s annual conference are available online.

Medical Examiner’s Panel Provides Near Consensus on Many Sample Cases

ASIP convened a panel of Medical Examiners to serve as panelists at the 2008 Annual Conference in September.

The panelists were:
Joyce DeJong, DO
Forensic Pathologist, Department of Pathology, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing, MI
Jeffrey Jentzen, MD
Director of Autopsy and Forensic Services and Current President of the National Association of Medical Examiners (former Chief Medical Examiner for Milwaukee County), The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Joseph Prahlow, MD
South Bend Medical Foundation and Immediate Past President and current Chairman of the Board of the National Association of Medical Examiners, South Bend, IN
Carl Schmidt, MD
Chief Medical Examiner, Wayne County Office of the Medical Examiner, Detroit, MI
The panel was moderated by Tom Andrew, MD, Chief Medical Examiner, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Concord, NH.

The panel discussed many aspects of infant mortality, focusing on infants who are bedsharing, or sharing another sleep surface with an adult. There was agreement among the panelists that doll re-enactments are extremely helpful in determining cause and manner of death. In fact, Dr. Schmidt shared that in his area, doll re-enactments are being performed at each investigation. Dr. Jentzen expressed his deep concerns about infants being placed to sleep on the couch, which he feels is a “death trap” for babies. Dr. Prahlow discussed the differences in investigation strategies in states with coroners. Dr. DeJong provided a unique perspective, due to her work for multiple rural counties with differing death scene practices.

Remarkably, on many of the sample cases described by moderator Dr. Andrew, the panel was in agreement on how they would rule each case. This suggests that medical examiners may be becoming more uniform in their approach to choosing cause and manner of death for babies found in the family bed.