Law \ Legal

Faulty Forensic Tests on Newborns Send Women to Prison



The flotation test, a forensic procedure used in many parts of Latin America to decide if a he birth was stillborn,  based on whether or not the child’s lungs float in water enable prosecutors to file murder charges against women and, in some cases, sentence them to decades in prison even though it can easily be wrong, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In rare instances, courts in Latin America have recognized the dangers of relying on the flotation test, which ignores the reality that air and other gasses can enter the lungs of a stillborn baby in multiple ways besides breathing, but that has not translated to broader changes in how it is used. In a 2020 letter solicited by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit based in New York that has helped defend U.S. women accused of killing their newborns, 25 forensic scientists wrote that the flotation test is “not a scientifically reliable test or indicator of live birth.”


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