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June 13, 1990

Capital Crime: Black Infant Mortality in America

Author Affiliations

St Paul, Minn

St Paul, Minn

JAMA. 1990;263(22):3090. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440220118044

Why do 10 000 black American infants die during their first year of life, and why is this rate increasing? Why is the black infant mortality rate twice that of white infants, with no signs of any narrowing gap between the two races?

The reader is immediately gripped by a powerful foreword, written by John W. Scanlon, MD, director of neonatalogy, Columbia Hospital for Women, Washington, DC. He vividly describes the neonatal intensive care units in our nation's capital, where tiny victims are born, incompletely formed, to be attached to electronic monitors and infusions. He describes how the survivors too frequently develop blindness, hearing loss, infections, and permanent handicaps. After incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars of hospital costs, infants are discharged to the same bleak, often violent environment that launched their premature arrival into neonatal intensive care. The result of these premature births is a black infant mortality rate