New study estimates 85 newborn killed or left to die per year by parents, usually their mother

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- An estimated minimum of 85 newborn babies are killed or left to die by one or both parents --usually their mother -- in the United States each year, according to a first-of-its-kind new study. The real figure is undoubtedly higher, authors of a report say, noting that all dead babies may not be found as often they are discarded in trashcans, woods or other remote areas.

At least some of the deaths could be prevented if all states passed and publicized "Safe Haven" laws that allow parents to transfer unwanted newborns to hospitals or health workers anonymously without being charged with infant abandonment, researchers conclude. As of 2002, 42 states had passed such laws, but money to advertise them was scarce.

Led by principal investigator Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens, the study focused on information gathered from 1985 through 2000 on homicides among children under five days old through the UNC-based Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill and supplemented by the State Center for Health Statistics. Herman-Giddens is a senior fellow at the N.C. Child Advocacy Institute and adjunct professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.

A report on the research appears in the March 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Other authors are Jamie B. Smith of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, Dr. Manjoo Mittal of the State Center for Health Statistics, and Mandie Carlson and Dr. John D. Butts, chief medical examiner.

Herman-Giddens and colleagues found at least 2.1 per 100,000 newborns were killed or left to die by a parent in North Carolina each year. That represented 34 known cases over the 16-year span. The national figure came as a mathematical extrapolation from the N.C. data.

"Several of our findings surprised us somewhat," Herman-Giddens said. "One was that almost 21 percent of the women were married. Half were unma

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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