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Infant Abduction – an Unthinkable Crime

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Infant Abduction – an Unthinkable Crime

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Infant abductionInfant abduction – stealing someone’s baby! Abduction is defined as the act of taking away someone against their will. Infant abduction, or kidnapping, involves taking a child against the parent’s will. Just last month two incidents highlighted this crime: A Canadian woman who posed as a nurse took a newborn infant from her mother’s arms to weigh her and walked out of a hospital in May 2014. Four amateur sleuths saw an AMBER Alert (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) posting on Facebook about the abduction and her alleged kidnapper and notified the police. The baby was found and returned to her mother.

Four people working in an Indian hospital in May 2014 abducted a newborn from the maternity unit and sold him to a childless woman for 30,000 rupees ($500). Surveillance video captured images of the abduction and led to the identification and arrest of the perpetrators and the child’s return to his mother’s arms.

These cases represent one of the most gut-wrenching discoveries: an infant is missing. The emotional cost affects parents, healthcare facilities and police. In addition to the emotional cost, there are financial costs in the form of lawsuits that may result for the failure of a healthcare facility to safeguard its patients. The costs also include damage to the facility’s reputation and impact on the accreditation of the facility.

How Common is Abduction?
How common is this crime? The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has been a resource for law enforcement and the healthcare industry since 1989. Reporting an infant abduction to this agency is voluntary; it finds out about cases in a variety of ways. Its database showed there were 291 infants (newborn to six months old) who have been abducted by a nonfamily member (not a parent or legal guardian) from 1983 to 2014. As of 2014, twelve of these children have not been recovered.

Abduction in the Hospital and At Home
Of the 291 infants, 132 of the children were taken from healthcare facilities. Most of the children were taken from the child’s mother’s hospital room. Violence was used during the abduction against 11 of the mothers or caregivers in the hospital.

118 infants were taken from their home. 35 of the mothers or caregivers were subjected to violence during the abduction including assaults with guns, knives, and car keys. Some of the parents were murdered. For example, in April 2012, a 30-year-old Texas woman killed a mother of a 3-day-old son, who was at a pediatric center. The infant was recovered six hours later.

Attorneys are most likely going to be involved in litigating hospital abductions instead of home abductions. The standard of care on maternity units is to recognize the profile of the typical abductor and to have in place systems to prevent infant abduction.

Profile of the Abductor

• The abductor is usually a female of childbearing age (12 to 53) years old and often overweight.
• She is most likely compulsive, and often relies on manipulation, lying and deception.
• She frequently says she lost a baby or can’t have one.
• She is often married or living with someone. Her companion wants a child.
• She usually lives in the community where the abduction takes place.
• The abductor frequently visits the nursery and maternity units at more than one healthcare facility prior to the abduction and asks questions about procedures, feeding time, and the maternity floor layout. She frequently uses an exit stairwell for her escape.
• She often becomes familiar with healthcare staff members, staff members’ work routine and the victim’s parents.
• She often pretends to be a healthcare employee. She may wear hospital scrubs.
• She may have staged a fictitious pregnancy, set up a nursery, or told friends she is adopting a baby.
• She usually plans the abduction but may not pick out a specific infant in advance.
• She usually picks an infant of the same race as herself.
• She demonstrates a capability to provide good care to the baby once the abduction occurs.

There is no guarantee an infant abductor will fit this description.

In part 2, I’ll describe what needs to be done to prevent this heinous crime.

Med League supplies well-qualified expert witnesses to review obstetrical and other medical and nursing malpractice cases. Contact us for help with your next case.

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