I attend a monthly meeting of a group, convened by the local Prosecutor, which reviews the circumstances of every pediatric death in our area.
The meetings can be very long, depending on the types of cases, the amount of material to be reviewed and the recommendations issued for follow-up or prevention.
I don’t know which months are worse: those in which we review 9+ cases of infant deaths, some from inflicted abuse but most from parents co-sleeping with their babies or the months when the list is filled with deaths of teenagers from gang related shootings.
The infant deaths are heart wrenching.
I know they’re cuddly and soft; they smell good and you want them to experience the sensation of your skin against theirs and to be enveloped by your love.
Trouble is, there’s a damn good chance that they’ll also be enveloped by your pillow, your blanket, your quilt, your upper arm or your whole body when you rollover on them while sleeping, obstructing their airway and triggering cardiac arrest.
We’ve heard all the rationales from parents about how such a tragedy would never happen to them.
Some of us in the healthcare system have even done this with our own kids.
Can a child survive co-sleeping? Yes.
Is there any guarantee they will? NO.
Each time you bring your infant into bed with you, you're literally playing Russian Roulette with their life.
How lucky do you feel?
Don't bother telling me you’re such a light sleeper that this would never happen to you.
It can; it has; it does.
So far this year I’ve personally spoken to 5 families who have all said the same things – and they’ve said it as they’re saying goodbye to their dead child in the ER.
The fantasy for healthcare professionals is that if we just educate people to use a crib, and provide them with one if they can’t afford it, then these totally preventable deaths would stop.
And they don’t; because, by and large, parents don’t want to be talked out of something that brings them pleasure.
But today’s list had 9 teenagers on it - all dead from GSW (gun shot wounds), all under 18, all gang related.
All of them from families with Children's Division charges as long as my arm and involvement throughout their lives for allegations of every kind of abuse: sexual, physical, emotional, educational and environmental neglect and endangerment – with massive amounts of money and professional time invested in working with their families to correct behaviors and remediate the damage.
Most of these kids didn’t stand a chance given the parents to whom they were born.
These meetings are always shorter.
After all, what is there to say about profound social failure and a total lack of individual personal responsibility?
There are few times when I am reluctant to come to work.
Today, after the meeting, was one of them…I don’t particularly like engaging in exercises in futility.