Earlier this week, Singapore's Coroner's Court declared an open verdict in the death of a two-month-old baby who was found face down and not breathing on his mattress
The baby boy from Sengkang was two months and three weeks old when he was found unresponsive by the family's maid and was later pronounced dead in a hospital on 17 May 2019.
According to CNA, in findings made available on Tuesday, 13 October, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said a thorough investigation, which included an autopsy examination, failed to establish the cause of the baby's death.
The coroner raised unsafe sleeping practices which possibly led to the baby's death, but did not rule out suffocation. An open verdict is where it is affirmed that a death was suspicious but does not specify the cause.
The maid had fed the baby and laid him in a prone position (on his stomach), with his head turned sideways on a mattress
She left the bedroom for about an hour to do the dishes, helped the family's other two daughters with their shower, and did some laundry.
When she finally wondered why the baby did not cry the whole time she was away, the maid found the infant lying face down on his mattress and picked him up to see that he was pale and not breathing.
She immediately called the parents to come home and the father rushed the baby to the hospital.
However, his son continued to be unresponsive and pulseless despite emergency medical assistance and was pronounced dead that night.
The autopsy revealed no obvious, significant abnormalities
The forensic pathologist said a prone sleeping position is not likely a cause of death given that there was no evidence of co-sleeping or evidence indicating that the baby's nose or mouth was covered.
He said if the baby died by suffocation with his face down and external airways obstructed, there would be autopsy findings such as injuries or abrasions around the nose and mouth, but these were absent from the case.
The State Coroner said there were no grounds to suspect foul play based on the evidence found, but suffocation could still not be excluded with certainty
"Following a thorough investigation, including autopsy examination with ancillary testing, a review of the circumstances of the death, and the baby's clinical history, his cause of death remains unascertained. I am therefore constrained to record an open verdict," said Kamala.
The coroner also reminded parents and caregivers to practise safe sleep.
"A baby who is placed to sleep on his tummy may become trapped in a face down position," she said, adding that paediatricians, and others involved in infantcare, regularly emphasise the importance of a baby sleeping on its back.