OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma Senate committee has approved legislation that would require standardized investigations following unexplained deaths of infants.
Sen. Brenda Stanley is the author of Senate Bill 95.
Organizers say the bill was originally requested by Ali Dodd, an Edmond mother whose baby died at a state-licensed day care center due to an unsafe sleep environment.
“I got a phone call that no parent should every have to get, that Shepard wasn’t breathing,” Dodd told KFOR in 2015.
The family soon learned that a daycare worker put Dodd’s 11-week-old son to sleep in an unbuckled car seat on the floor and left him unsupervised.
The position of his head blocked his airway, causing him to stop breathing.
Shepard’s death caused the Oklahoma Legislature to act, inspiring multiple bills regarding daycare providers and child safety rules.
Now, lawmakers say they are asking investigators to do more when a child dies.
According to Sen. Stanley, the medical examiner listed Shepard’s cause of death as unknown/undetermined. Also, they noted that there was no information about the specific circumstances surrounding his death.
“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 Senate Bill 95, the medical examiner would conduct a sudden unexplained infant death investigation within 48 hours of a 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.
“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.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It will now head to the full Senate for consideration.