"IN FACT, MANY FAMILIES FEEL ISOLATED AND BECOME CRIME SUSPECTS IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLIC EVEN THOUGH NO CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED.
CLEARLY A MORE BALANCED APPROACH IS NEEDED THAT RESTS MORE ON THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE THAN IMPLYING GUILT UP FRONT."
DR. ERNEST CUTZ: RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOUDGE INQUIRY;
Dr. Ernest Cutz has performed an important public service with his unique recommendations that families of deceased children be given support and treated with sympathy by pathologists conducting investigations into the deaths of their children.
Dr. Cutz is a distinguished pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, who has drafted his personal recommendations for the Goudge Inquiry, which have been posted on the Inquiry's Web-site.
Dr. Cutz's views are well worth considering because he has been at the Hospital for several decades and is steeped in all aspects of the Pathology Department -including the Ontario Forensic Pediatric Pathology Unit.
This Blog is therefore publishing his submissions on the following systemic issues being considered by the Gouge Inquiry on "the role of the family.":
0:Should there be guidelines for communications between the pathologist or the coroner and the family?
0: How should an ongoing criminal or child protection investigation affect the communication?
0: How, if at all, can the family’s need to grieve be reconciled with the work of the pathologist in a pediatric forensic death?
"The death of a child has a profound effect on the family unit with lifelong consequences," this recommendation begins;
"At present, all such deaths become the subject of police investigation and the home where the child has died becomes a “crime scene” adding further shock to the already distraught family. There is no specific counseling, education or long term follow- up," it continues;
"In fact, many families feel isolated and become crime suspects in the eyes of the public even though no crime has been committed.
Clearly a more balanced approach is needed that rests more on the presumption of innocence than implying guilt up front.
One possible solution could be the involvement of a Public Health nurse or other health care professionals who are knowledgeable in infant care practices.
These individuals should have initial contact with the families and should be responsible for public education, emotional support and long-term follow-up with affected families.
Further, these individuals could be trained as death scene investigators in child deaths to identify potential risk factors and to insure best infant care practices.
This approach could help create a more compassionate and sensitive mechanism for investigating children’s deaths.
In the past, pediatric pathologists sometimes interacted with SIDS and SUD families prior to and/or following the autopsy.
The pathologist would explain his of her findings and help the family to cope with their grief.
Some Hospital for Sick Children staff pathologists have also interacted with SIDS parents organizations by providing information and lecturing on SIDS.
My suggestion is to encourage and re-establish these links since pediatric pathologists are best qualified to explain autopsy findings in these cases.
Interaction with families will have a positive effect in terms of regaining the trust of the public and also increase the profile of pediatric pathologists, helping with recruitment issue."