Over­crowd­ing and lack of medicine fu­elled death toll

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - EXCLUSIVE -

“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.”

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