nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Infanticide Study: Hard To Write About

 
Profiles of mothers who murder their babies immediately after birth.

A notorious case of multiple infanticide in France--the woman admitted to killing 8 of her infants over 17 years--led to more in-depth look at how often this occurs.  The updated estimate from the French research suggests that it is five times more frequent than originally thought.

Caveat:  This is about numbers and how you can make something sound really bad.  Remember that going from 0 in a million to 1 in a million is an infinite increase.  The actually infanticide rate they found was 2.1 per 100,000 births (up from 0.39/100,000).  Each one is tragic, but the numbers are still low. It's a lot riskier to be an African-American adolescent male.

Also, the comparison was made by shifting the focus of what was measured.  This is always dicey.  In the previous rate, the data was taken from death certificates where the cause was listed as "infaniticide."  In the updated number, all deaths within 1 day of birth were reviewed.  You can see how the new method might over- or under-estimate those deaths which were murder.  What criteria did they use to say a "one-day" death was infanticide?

More important was the study's profile of the mothers they identified as having killed their babies (see the story at BBC News, Dec 8):
The average age was 26, a third of them already had at least three children and more than half lived with the father of the newborn they killed.


About two-thirds were employed, and the group as a whole did not differ significantly from other women in terms of social level or occupation.

None were clinically diagnosed as mentally ill. All hid their pregnancies from their families and friends but none were said to be suffering from genuine "pregnancy denial". They gave birth alone and in secret.
It's useful, in a way, to know those at risk, but I don't think we'll prevent much if the births occurred outside the medical system.  It may become easier for law enforcement to identify suspected deaths, but too late.

Doc D
 
 

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