Abandonment of newborn infants: a Danish forensic medical survey 1997-2008

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Abstract

Concealment of pregnancy and newborn infant abandonment are closely associated with neonaticide, the killing of an infant within the first 24 h of life or less than 28-30 days depending on the jurisdiction. Abandonment of newborn infants occurs throughout the world and often the outcome for the infant is death. Together with neonaticide it is felt to be one of the least preventable crimes. In this retrospective study we present all forensically known Danish cases of abandoned newborn infant corpses, covering the period from 1997 to 2008. Eleven newborn infant corpses were found; we registered characteristics of the newborn infants and the circumstances of the cases based on autopsy reports. One further newborn infant was included, dating back to 1992, as it was found to be connected with one of the later cases. The mean age of the women who abandoned their newborn infants was 22 years, and five of the autopsied newborn infants were probably alive when abandoned. In two cases the newborn infants were half siblings and abandoned by the same mother. The time span from abandonment to when the newborn infant was found ranged from hours to 7 years. Two-thirds of the newborn infants were girls (66.6%). The most common means of disposal was in a plastic bag (˜60%); only one newborn infant was wearing clothes when found. Causes of death were usually given as asphyxia, brain injury or simply undetermined. Two-thirds of the newborn infants showed signs of violence. None of the newborn infants had congenital malformations.

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