An inquest has been held for a little baby boy who died in 2008, which found that the baby had a BAC of 0.03. The legal BAC limit for fully licensed drivers in Australia is 0.05, and can easily be reached by two standard drinks.
Little baby Shorn died in November 2008 after his father found him not breathing in his cot at the family’s home in Parmelia, southern Perth WA. After he was rushed to hospital, Shorn was given up to a dozen doses of adrenaline, and doctors found a faint pulse. However, baby Shorn suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be transferred to Perth where he died two days later. He was 46 days old. His mother was in hospital because she had problems with her Caesarean scar. I hope that she wasn’t in the same hospital as her baby. Imagine being in hospital and hearing that your baby died when your partner was supposed to be caring for him?
Doctors initially believed that Shorn had died from SIDS or cot death. An adult sized pillow was placed into Shorn’s cot and his father found him face-down in the pillow. There were no external signs of trauma and the pathologist couldn’t pinpoint an exact cause for Shorn’s death. However, when Shorn was admitted to hospital, a blood test was conducted and the doctors found the alcohol in his system. Now how did that get in there?
Shorn’s father initially told police that he hadn’t been drinking at the time of the incident, but later admitted that he had two cans of bourbon and coke before turning in for the night and that he only ever fed Shorn baby formula. He suggested that the alcohol may have transferred to Shorn when he was doing CPR and mouth to mouth on him. He also suggested that Shorn’s bottles may have been sterilised with alcohol and that’s how it got into him. The inquest heard that alcohol wasn’t used to sterilise the bottles and that there wasn’t any alcohol in the formula. The deputy coroner noted that if the mixed formula was left standing for a few days, it could produce some alcohol. She noted that this had happened with a bottle of formula that Shorn’s father had made and left on the coffee table when he found his son. The formula had been sitting there for three days and produced an alcohol reading of 0.019%. It was not likely that it was involved with the alcohol in the baby’s system. The coroner also noted that when she was young, alcohol was commonly used to soothe babies and that Shorn had a history of being hard to settle.
The toxicologist said that the reading would have been much higher when Shorn was found that morning. Dad had last fed him around 10pm the night before and put him to bed. He discounted the theory of the sterilisation and the CPR, and stated that a teaspoon of spirits such as bourbon, whiskey or gin could have caused the baby’s reading to be so high. The expert could not confidently say that the alcohol caused the baby’s death or that he had a lethal amount in his system. The level measured at the hospital wasn’t lethal, but anything over 0.01 was concerning. He said that alcohol had a sedative effect on babies, and that it affects their breathing, posture control and gag reflex.
The inquest is continuing, with the father yet to give evidence. The coroner has urged him to tell the truth, even if he did give the baby alcohol.
Rest in peace, little Shorn.