August 21, 2014 is a date that forever changed the lives of parents whose infant son died while at his daycare center. This tragic wrongful death that occurred at a daycare does shed light on a practice that some parents and daycare providers practice that can have deadly results. In Webster Grove, Missouri a 7 month old infant was found dead under a weighted blanket.
A weighted blanked is a blanket that has items such as flax seed, beans, poly pellets or other items sewn between the fabric. Some blankets are a DIY home project while others are prescribed or obtained from medical equipment vendor.
For some adults or special needs individuals, a weighted blanket has been said to calm the anxious and distressed. Some medical providers have recommended such a blanket for adults who have medical conditions such as restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, night terrors or sleep apnea. Some medical providers encourage the use of such a blanket with children. In the case of children, it is usually because the child suffers from a sensory processing issues as do autistic children and others with special needs.
In the Webster Groves incident, the day care provider used a white noise machine and weighted blanket while the 7 month infant napped. While napping, the child rolled onto his abdomen. The child’s position and the added weight placed on him by the weighted blanket led to his premature death. The weighted blanket used was 4 pound 8 ounces. In addition to the use of the blanket, the day care admitted to not checking up on the child after he fell asleep. Had this occurred, the child may have been helped by re-positioning him.
While the use of a weighted blanket may be prescribed for a child with special needs, most websites selling the product or addressing the use of this item for a special needs child, carry a warning such as the following one found on the site www.E-specialneeds.com: ‘All Children do not have the same sensory integration needs. Weighted blankets should be used under the direction and advice of a healthcare professional or licensed therapist and should be used while under adult supervision.’ Another website, www.NationalAutismResources.com states regarding the blankets on their site, ‘Each therapeutic blanket is designed and tested by an occupational therapist to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed across the body to maximize comfort.’
Why these advisory warnings? A medical provider needs to take into consideration the age, height, and weight of the individual so that the weighted blanket being used is appropriate to the size of the individual using it. Weight distribution of the weighted blanket is also a concern for medical providers. As seen in the case of this infant, if a weighted blanket is too heavy, an infant can suffocate or can be at a heightened risk to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Parents expect that their day care providers will provide reasonable supervision while the children are in their possession, both when the children are awake or asleep. Both parents and day care providers recognize that infants are at risk of either injury or death while napping. Infants are at a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, suffocation or asphyxiation.
Cribs at day care centers should be free of objects that could present a choking or suffocation hazard to the infant. Day care providers should consult with parents prior to using devices such as a weighted blanket on a child when such an item has not been specifically authorized or provided by a medical professional and/or provided by the parent themselves.
The sudden and unexpected wrongful death of a child alters families forever. I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer. I have worked with many grieving families after the loss of their child. My website provides some resources that can help families with the grieving process.
If you have lost your child in and believe you have a wrongful death claim, please feel free to call or visit me to discuss the matter. You can call me at (916) 921-6400. If you are outside the Sacramento area, you can call me at (800) 404-5400 toll-free for fast, friendly advice now.
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