Fatality Prevention

Fatality PreventionFatality Prevention

In July 2000, the Massachusetts Child Fatality Review Team legislation (G.L. c. 38, § 2A) was enacted to bring together professionals from a variety of disciplines and experiences to examine individual fatality cases of children under the age of eighteen (18). The law established a State Team within the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Local Teams within each of the eleven (11) District Attorney's Offices. The purpose of these teams is to decrease the incidence of preventable child fatalities. The law was later amended, to include the review of "near fatalities" of children.

The Local Teams are chaired by the District Attorney and include representation from the Chief Medical Examiner's Office, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts SIDS Center, state and local police, the juvenile courts, and a pediatrician with with experience in diagnosing or treating child abuse and neglect. Persons with expertise or information relevant to an individual case may be invited on an ad hoc basis to sit in on a review by agreement of the permanent team members.

The Local Teams are charged with collecting and reviewing information on individual cases in an effort to understand the causes and incidence of child fatalities and near fatalities in the county. The teams are not looking to assign blame for a child's death. Rather, they are trying to identify factors that may have contributed to the child's death so as to prevent future, similar deaths. The Local Teams advise the State Team by making recommendations for changes in law, policy or practice, which may prevent future child deaths and near deaths.

Local teams report statistics and recommendations to the State Team who then reviews the data and advises the Governor's office, the General Court, and the public by making recommendations that will prevent child fatalities and near fatalities. The State Team is chaired by the Chief Medical Examiner. Members are drawn from state departments of public health, children and families, mental health, developmental services, education, and youth services. There also is representation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Massachusetts SIDS Center, the Massachusetts Hospital Association, state and local police, the Attorney General's Office, the Massachusetts District Attorney's Association, and the juvenile courts.

All team meetings are closed to the public. All information is kept strictly confidential. Any documents, records or information gathered is exempt from being obtained or used in any civil or criminal court proceeding. Only statistical data, which does not contain any identifiable information, may be disclosed as necessary to carry out a team's duties and purposes.