An evidence-based guide to the investigation of sudden unexpected death in infancy

Joanna Garstang, Catherine Ellis, Peter Sidebotham

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    19 Citations (Scopus)
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    Purpose Many countries now have detailed investigations following sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) but there is no clear evidence as to the most effective way to investigate SUDI. This systematic literature review addresses the following questions: What are the current models of practice for investigating SUDI? What is the evidence to support these investigative models? What are the key factors for effective SUDI investigation? Methods This was a systematic review of papers from Europe, North America, and Australasia, detailing models of SUDI investigation or the outcomes of SUDI investigations. Results The review includes data detailing four different models of investigation: police-led, coroner or medical examiner-led, healthcare-led or joint agency approach models. There were 18 different publications providing evidence of effectiveness of these models. All models, with the exception of police-led models, have the potential to reach best practice standards for SUDI investigation. Key factors identified for effective SUDI investigation include the need for mandatory investigation, strong leadership, integration with coronial services, and for investigations to be provided by specialist professionals. Conclusion Detailed SUDI investigation should lead to greater understanding of why infants die and should help prevent future deaths. The challenge is now to ensure that local SUDI investigative practices are as effective as possible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)345-357
    JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2015

    Bibliographical note

    The final publication is available at Springer via .


    • Sudden unexpected death in infancy
    • Sudden infant death syndrome
    • Death scene investigation
    • Cause of death
    • Evidence-based practice


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