Committee approves bill on unexplained infant death reports

Mike Seals - February 3, 2021 11:25 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved legislation Wednesday to require standardized investigations following the sudden, unexplained deaths of infants in Oklahoma.

Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, is the principal author of Senate Bill 95 which cleared the committee with unanimous approval.

The bill was originally requested by Edmond mother Ali Dodd, whose baby died almost six years ago at a state-licensed day care center due to an unsafe sleep environment.  The medical examiner listed the cause of death as unknown/undetermined.  No information about the specific circumstances or contributing factors was documented, including the fact that her 11-week-old baby was left swaddled, unbuckled, and unrestrained in a car seat for two hours on the floor beyond a closed door.

The legislation was originally filed in 2020 by former Sen. Stephanie Bice who is now a member of Congress. It was approved unanimously by the Senate last year, but the bill did not make it all the way through the process after the Legislature was shut down for several weeks because of the pandemic.  Stanley refiled the measure this year.

“According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, our state’s infant mortality rate has been above the national average since 1992. We can and must do more—the data from thorough, standardized investigations will help us be proactive with policies and statutes that can help save lives,” Stanley said.  “It’s important for us to get SB  95 to the governor’s desk this year.”

Under the provisions of SB 95, the medical examiner would conduct a sudden unexplained infant death investigation (SUIDI) within 48 hours of the baby’s death.  The examiner would also be required to interview the parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or the person who last had contact with the infant.  Information collected would include known medical histories, how the infant was found, how they were placed and other pertinent details.

Dodd said her motivation in pursuing the legislation was to prevent other families from the loss and pain her own has endured.

“Between 70 and 75 percent of infant deaths in Oklahoma are listed as unknown or undetermined,” Dodd said.  “Having standardized investigations can give us the information we need to spare other families from this grief.  I want to thank Sen. Stanley for continuing this effort, and the committee for supporting this bill.”

SB 95 will next be considered by the full Senate.

For more information, contact Sen. Brenda Stanley at 405-521-5584 or email [email protected].


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