Unraveling a twenty-five-year tale of multiple murder and medical deception,The Death of Innocentsis a work of first-rate journalism told with the compelling narrative drive of a mystery novel. More than just a true-crime story, it is the stunning expose of spurious science that sent medical researchers in the wrong direction--and nearly allowed a murderer to go unpunished. On July 28, 1971 a two-and-a-half month-old baby named Noah Hoyt died in his trailer home in a rural hamlet of upstate New York. He was the fifth child of Waneta and Tim Hoyt to die suddenly in the space of seven years. People certainly talked, but Waneta spoke vaguely of "crib death." There was plenty of unease, but over time the talk faded. Nearly two decades later a district attorney in Syracuse, New York was alerted to landmark paper in the literature on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome--SIDS--that had been published in a prestigious medical journal in 1972. Written by a prominent researcher at a Syracuse medical center, the article described the brief lives and sudden deaths of "N.H." and his sister "M.H.", part of a family in which three other children had died suddenly without explanation. The more the D.A. pushed and probed, the more he was convinced something was very wrong about this account. It was the start of an intensive quest by a team of investigators, and it came to its climax on April 20, 1995, when after a dramatic trial Waneta Hoyt was found guilty of the murder of all her children. But this book is more than a vivid account of infanticide revealed. It is also a riveting medical detective story. That journal article by a charismatic doctor had legitimized the deaths of the last two babies by theorizing a cause for the mystery of SIDS, suggesting it could be predicted and prevented, and fostering the presumption that SIDS runs in families. In the years thereafter, this theory became the prevailing wisdom about SIDS, every new parent's nightmare. More than two decades of studies have failed to confirm any of these widely-accepted premises. How this happened--couldhave happened--is a compelling story of high-stakes medical research in action. And the enigma of familial SIDS has given rise to a special and terrible irony. Today there is a maxim in forensic pathology: One unexplained infant death in a family is SIDS. Two is very suspicious. Three is homicide.
The death of innocents
New York :, Bantam Books,, 1997.
vii, 632 p.,  p. of plates :,ill. ;,25 cm.
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada.
"A true story of murder, medicine, and high-stakes science"--Cover.
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