Safeguarding Children’s Lives: A Public Health Approach To Preventing Tragedies Of Children’s Deaths In Cars (Part 2) — Dr Erwin Khoo, Dr Ikram Ilias & Prof Dr Zulkifli Ismail

Imagine the impact of a bereaved parent and a prosecuting attorney jointly addressing a community meeting, urging parents to consistently check their back seat upon exiting their vehicles. This engagement is crucial in preventing Forgotten Baby Syndrome.

Building upon the imperative for collective action outlined in the first part, we now delve deeper into the multilayered approach required to address the tragic issue of children left unknowingly in cars.

Proactive engagement from various stakeholders, including prosecutors, child advocates, and community members, is paramount in fostering awareness and preventing such heartbreaking incidents.

This second part delves into the role of prosecutors and the philosophical considerations surrounding accountability in cases of accidental harm, providing a comprehensive perspective on mitigating this public health issue.

As suggested by Dr Erika Breitfeld, prosecutors also play a unique role in death investigations, enabling them to effectively raise awareness within communities.

Unlike other attorneys, prosecutors closely collaborate with law enforcement to determine criminal culpability. In cases where charges are not warranted, such as those involving forgetful parents, prosecutors, along with child advocates, can employ tragic stories for community engagement and education.

Imagine the impact of a bereaved parent and a prosecuting attorney jointly addressing a community meeting, urging parents to consistently check their back seat upon exiting their vehicles.

Such a narrative holds immense power, with the parent sharing their personal experience not due to facing unfounded homicide charges, but because the prosecutor recognised an opportunity to educate the community about this risk.

This type of engagement is crucial in fostering awareness and preventing Forgotten Baby Syndrome, highlighting the importance of prosecutors utilising their leadership role to facilitate such discussions.

Child advocates must also collaborate with affected families to share these stories within the community, refraining from pursuing unjustified prosecutions and instead focusing on preventing future tragedies.

Sometimes, we can separate the question of whether someone did something bad from the question of whether they should be blamed or held accountable for it.

For example, some philosophers, labelled as ‘revisionists’ by Benjamin Zipursky, argue that the person who committed the bad act is not accountable or should not be blamed.

They prompt deeper reflection on when and why we should blame or hold someone accountable for an accidental act of wrongdoing. If doing something bad means doing something that could harm someone else without a good reason, then it seems that the person who did it should know that it was risky.

However, most of these parents’ actions, or rather inactions, challenge the idea that they who did the ‘bad thing’ should be blamed.

The revisionists acknowledge that most people would blame the person who did the bad thing in some of these cases, but they argue that most people are wrong and need to reconsider their moral views.

Not knowing something, forgetting to do something, and making a mistake are all examples of accidental badness. The main point is that sentences like “X is to be blamed for A” can mean two very different things, and the reason why some people deny that someone can be blamed for being accidentally bad is because they do not understand this difference.

The Latin saying “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”, which translates to “The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty”, underscores the importance of mens rea, or a guilty mind, in criminal acts.

Dr David Diamond pointed out that this absence of mens rea is relevant in cases where parents or caretakers unknowingly and unintentionally leave a child in a car.

Therefore, considering that a criminal act necessitates full awareness of the potential harm caused by one’s actions, the tragic deaths of children being left in cars should be regarded as public health issues rather than crimes.

Nonetheless, each case must be evaluated based on its unique circumstances, emphasising the need for a comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to a parent’s or caregiver’s loss of awareness regarding the child’s presence in the car.

Looking at the philosophy helps us to see more variety in how and why we blame or hold someone accountable in morality and adds more important topics to the philosophical study of moral responsibility in a local setting.

Children dying from being left in the car unknowingly by parents is a serious and complex problem that requires collective action and responsibility.

We cannot afford to lose any more precious lives to this preventable cause. We need to work together to create a safer and more supportive environment for both parents and children, and to ensure that every child has the right to live.

Assoc Prof Dr Erwin Khoo is from the International Medical University (IMU), Assoc Prof Dr Ikram Ilias is president of the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), and Prof Dr Zulkifli Ismail is the secretary-general of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Associations (APPA).

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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