Section 313.121 Autopsy of Child in Apparent Good Health Who Dies Suddenly

Section 313.121 Autopsy of Child in Apparent Good Health Who Dies Suddenly

Section 313.121 Autopsy of Child in Apparent Good Health Who Dies Suddenly

Sudden unexpected infant deaths are very traumatic for their parents. Such death is made even worse because the cause is unknown. Given that an infant is healthy, this gives parents a hard time understanding and comprehending. A child's parent makes them think twice about their worth as parents and have second thoughts about their actions. The Ohio revised code 313.121 was implemented to help ease the shock of parents who lost their children due to unexpected death. Section 313.121 states that if a seemingly healthy baby between two years of age and one year old dies, the coroner must be notified immediately. Thereafter, a thorough autopsy will occur. The death may have occurred at their residence or in a hospital. And such death shall be reported immediately to the local medical examiner. Regardless of where it occurred, the family usually wants an autopsy to be done. As the parents look for answers to the sudden death, an autopsy can give them peace. When an infant of tender age dies suddenly, the law provides the coroner, deputy coroner, or other person designated to conduct an autopsy. The coroner or any other person assigned to conduct an autopsy shall accomplish a sudden unexplained infant death investigation (SUIDI) reporting form. The same coroner shall send the SUIDS form to the appropriate child fatality review board. It is important to note that these forms are not considered public records since the report involves minors whose identities the law protects.

SIDS Statistics

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3,400 infants two years of age or younger die annually. This number includes those labeled as under sudden infant death syndrome. It can be difficult for the department of health and the CDC to determine the actual trend of these deaths. Since the parent or legal guardian is often unaware that SIDS causes these deaths, the actual number is undeterminable. Fortunately, the incidence of SIDS had decreased dramatically since 1990, when it was estimated at 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2019, SIDS was at 33.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Request for Autopsy Report by the Parents

Immediately after the autopsy, parents would want to know the cause of their child's death. The parents can submit a written or verbal request for the preliminary results of the autopsy. The coroner or the person assigned to do the autopsy shall then give an oral statement about the possible cause of death and other important information. The health department should always be given importance to the request for information by the parents. Upon the preliminary autopsy, the authorities are required to continue with the investigation until it is completed. When an infant dies suddenly, there are many possible causes. Regardless of the causes and the apparent good health of the child, it can be labeled as SIDS.

What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is a term used to describe the sudden death of a healthy infant that remains unexplained after autopsy. SIDS is also called "crib death" since babies aged one year or less die during their sleep in their cribs. For it to be considered a case of SIDS, the infant should be one year old or less, and such death occurred because of natural causes. Some of the physical factors contributing to the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome include brain defects, respiratory defects, or premature birth. Although there's apparent good health, these factors could not have been evident, and the death occurred suddenly without any indications. One can only determine such factors with the help of the health district or department of health, who shall assign the person to perform an autopsy. The child's parents or the child's legal guardian may ask for the preliminary results of the autopsy. The coroner, deputy coroner, or other person designated to conduct the autopsy shall apprise the concerned parties of the preliminary results orally.

SIDS Can Be a Result From Medical Malpractice

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can be attributed to many factors, but its existence is well defined based on two indicators: The child died suddenly when in apparent good health, and that said child is two years of age or less. At this point, there is still no final result, and the coroner-designated person who is to perform an autopsy shall accomplish a SUIDI reporting form. The said form shall contain the final results of the autopsy and the coroner shall send written notice to the child's parents. Based on the final results, the cause of death could be medical malpractice. There can be instances where the child's attending physician or pediatrician committed negligent birthing techniques. This negligence can result in spinal cord injuries upon the fragile body of the child. The autopsy indicating the cause of death shall give the parent peace of mind and determine the right course of action. The parent or legal guardian can file a complaint about wrongful death if negligence is present in the death of the child.


The parent of the child could pursue a wrongful death claim if it were proven, through the autopsy, that the negligence of another caused the death. Sudden infant death syndrome is simply the absence of a cause of death identified in an autopsy. The death may have occurred in the hospital or the place where the child's parent resides. Based on the Ohio revised code, while conducting the autopsy, if there were undiscovered symptoms of an initial condition or disease, then those symptoms would be factored into the cause of death. Such cause should not be immediately apparent before the death. The parent or legal guardian can file the wrongful death claim. Testimonial evidence such as the oral statement of the aggrieved parties and documentary evidence like the autopsy report can establish the negligence of the attending physician or doctor concerned.

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