A retrospective study of paediatric medicolegal autopsies at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria
Childhood mortality is still of high magnitude in most developing countries and the death of a child is a tragedy for both the child's family and the community more so, when they are mainly due to preventable causes. Medicolegal death is the term used to describe any violent, unclear or suspicious death that must be subjected to legal investigation. The aim of this study is to determine the characteristics and pattern of medicolegal deaths as it concerns paediatric cases. This is a review of all medicolegal autopsies (MLA) involving children between ages 0 to 14 years seen in the department of Histopathology, University of Benin Teaching Hospital between January 1990 and December 2009. A total of 551 childhoods MLA were recorded during the period under review, accounting for 12.3% of all medicolegal autopsies and 96% of all paediatric autopsies. Of this total, 427 (77.5%) cases were due to natural deaths; accidents, 20.7% (n=114) and homicides, 1.5% (n=8) while in 0.4% (n=2) of cases, the cause was undetermined. There were 304 males and 247 females giving a male to female ratio of 1.2:1. Deaths due to respiratory infections, gastroenteritis and malaria accounted for 210 cases (38.1%) and were responsible for most of the deaths. Deaths due to accidental causes were also high. Infectious diseases are still a major cause of death in our environment and efforts should be made by concerned authorities to improve the level of awareness and health education among its populace. Appropriate measures to lower childhood fatalities due to road traffic accidents needs to be made a top priority.