Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dead toddler in the back seat

In the rising tide of sympathy for the Whanganui mother who thought she'd delivered her toddler to Day Care but actually forgot her in the back seat of the car there are some who are already judging her competence as a mother.

I've just had a harrowing half-hour reading Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning article in the Washington Post in 2009. Gene researched many of the 15-25 of such baby-in-the-backseat-deaths that occur every year in the USA and contrasted how they were handled in different jurisdictions. He obviously spent a huge amount of time and travel getting inside the awful experiences of the people concerned. Of course, my medication prompts easy tears but the account of these terrible situations and their implications just overwhelmed me.

Weingarten also explored expert a wide range of opinion: Ever forgotten your cellphone? asked one: well, then - you can also forget your baby...  Carrying children in the back seat, supposedly to make them safer? - also  makes them more liable to be overlooked... There's a fascinating analysis of how our human brains do so many tasks at different levels that we are more likely to forget quite important things... And James Reason's Swiss Cheese Model should ring bells for everyone who ever does more than one thing at a time.

The article's punchline just broke me up. One or two of the local commentators should perhaps read it. This is a time for compassion, not judgment.

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