Overcrowding and lack
their early deaths will not appear in their death certificates.
“The stress affects their brains and hearts making them more likely to commit suicide and develop heart disease.
“These children are also more likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs as adults.
“This also shortens their lives. A greater understanding is needed of survivors of childhood abuse.”
The Sunday Post spent three months combing the archives to find the death certificates of 402 children where Smyllum was listed as the place of death or normal residence.
Causes of death include accidents and diseases such as tuberculosis, flu and scarlet fever.
Leading forensic medicine expert, Emeritus Professor Anthony Busuttil, of Edinburgh University, said the number of children living at Smyllum would speed the spread of contagious and potentially fatal disease.
He said: “The incidence of infectious diseases in the home was that of the general population.
“If there was overcrowding, infectious diseases would spread more quickly.
“The higher the population of the home the more likely the children were to get infectious diseases.
“If a child got TB it would die promptly, perhaps die later than those with TB in the community, but nevertheless die.
“There were no antibiotics or TB vaccines available at that time to prevent those deaths.
Living under such stress takes years off life expectancy
“We also have to consider how well children were when they went into the home.
“What is noticeable is that fewer children died from intestinal infectious diseases and diarrhoea which should have been quite rampant among the institutionalised population.
He said he understood that children who died in Irish orphanages showed evidence of malnutrition, but not at Smyllum.
“There are very few deaths from malnutrition at Smyllum,” he said.
But he added that details given on death certificates were not always accurate.
“Death certificates were completed with whatever the doctors wanted to put on them, suggesting that they were not always accurate.”
The mortality rate among one to 14-year-olds at Smyllum, between 1864 and 1981, was at