Overcrowding and lack of medicine fuelled death toll
“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 Ir ish 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
least 30 deaths per 1,000 children.
Figures from the National Records of Scotland reveal the highest mortality rate among children aged between one and 14 was in 1901, when 10.4 deaths per 1000 were recorded.
Professor Dame Sue Black, a leading forensic anthropologist, whose previous work includes identifying the victims of conflict in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq, said: “I don’t detect any suspicious patterns either in numbers, relationship to the Sisters becoming informants, or the nature of the death as certified.
“At times, in such conditions, I suspect it is difficult to know what is bronchitis and what is TB and apart from a few classic ones that I have seen many times before, for example, fainting, teething etc there is nothing obviously out of order.”
She added that moder n standards of medicine were far more exact than in the past, which should be taken into account when reviewing historic medical documents.
“Older death certificates often throw up one or two cause of deaths that we wouldn’t see in modern times where we are more specific and less speculative.”