News of the WeekGenetics

Crib Death Exoneration Could Usher In New Gene Tests

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Science  20 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5627, pp. 1858
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5627.1858

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For years, prosecutors in the United Kingdom have applied an unwritten three-strikes-and-you're-out rule to mothers whose babies die in infancy: One unexplained death is tragic but innocent, two is suspicious, and three is murder. This credo, tested in many a court case, led the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service to try a pharmacist named Trupti Patel for murder. However, recent genetic studies that challenge the three-strikes rule were a decisive factor in a stunning acquittal. The outcome could lead to more extensive screening of babies for inherited disorders, as well as to genetic testing of mothers accused of killing their babies.