Child deaths of undetermined intent: An analysis of circumstances using Illinois Violent Death Reporting System data

Han Wei Wu*, Suzanne G. McLone, Maryann Mason, Karen Sheehan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: There is little information available about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of children aged 0 to 14 in which the manner of death is of undetermined intent. METHODS: We analyzed data collected in the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS) to describe victim demographics, location of injury, seasonality, day of week, and circumstances surrounding the victims’ deaths. RESULTS: From 2005 to 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, 192 cases were identified of children aged 0-14 years, in which the manner of death was of undetermined intent. The majority of cases were under the age of 1 (81%), male (62%), non-Hispanic black (66%), occurred in the City of Chicago (65%), and also occurred most frequently during the months of May (15%) and July (13%), and on Sunday (19%). Circumstances of note were: having information on the location of death available for victim (90%); scene investigation was not performed/unknown/not documented (81%); and the victim not presenting with red petechiae (84%). By ethnicity, a lower proportion of Hispanic victims had parental drug information available compared to non-Hispanic victims (17% and 40%, respectively, p=0.017); Hispanic victims were more likely than non-Hispanic victims to have a documented acute illness at the time of injury leading to death (57% and 33%, respectively, p=0.015). The availability of scene information and the successful contact of one or both parents of the victim following the victim’s death varied by location. CONCLUSIONS: No public health surveillance system exists for the collection of this type of death. There is not enough information provided to develop an effective intervention. The systematic, thorough collection of information surrounding these deaths is necessary to pinpoint possible contributing mechanisms of death for these children. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiologic Level IV

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - May 25 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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