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Homicides of Pregnant Women

Lin, Peter MD; Gill, James R. MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 161-163
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181d3dc3b
Original Articles

Homicidal injury is a leading cause of death among pregnant and postpartum women in the United States. We studied all homicides in which the victim was pregnant at the time of the lethal injury. Records of the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner were reviewed. There were 27 homicides: the age ranged from 15 to 41 years (mean 27 years). The causes of death were: 13 gunshot wounds, 7 asphyxial deaths (eg, neck compression), 5 stabs, 1 blunt, and 1 blunt/stab. The gestational age ranged from 8 weeks to 40 weeks with an average of 24.5 weeks. Two live born infants (40 and 28 weeks gestation) were delivered following gunshot wounds of the mother and infant, however, both subsequently died. The victim and suspect were known to each other in 19 homicides. Of these, 16 involved an existing or prior intimate relationship including: 2 current husbands, 1 ex-husband, 9 current boyfriends, 3 ex-boyfriends, and 1 father. The issues that arise for the forensic pathologist include proper collection of a DNA sample from the fetus, estimation of the gestational age, and certification of death.

From the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner and Department of Forensic Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY.

Manuscript received August 6, 2009; accepted September 18, 2009.

Reprints: James R. Gill, MD, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, 520 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016. E-mail: JGILL@OCME.NYC.GOV.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.