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The Death of Innocents: A True Story of Murder, Medicine, and High-Stake Science

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  226 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Unraveling a twenty-five-year tale of multiple murder and medical deception, The Death of Innocents is 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 unpunish ...more
ebook, 640 pages
Published July 13th 2011 by Bantam (first published 1997)
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The Pfaeffle Journal
Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up, truth is always stranger than fiction. There are two stories in The Death of Innocents:
The first is about Dr. Alfred Steinschneider who based his clinical research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) on the actions of a serial murderer. In 1970 and 1971 Waneta Hoyt lost two children, Steinschneider used these deaths to base his SIDS Research on sleep apnea as a cause of those deaths, he also indicated that it could be inherited trait. In October of
Michael Gerald
Jan 24, 2016 Michael Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A riveting, shocking, true story of how a woman murdered 5 of her children and how a doctor unwittingly helped covered up the crime by coming up with a fraudulent science that masked the real cause of the children's deaths. A real page-turner and it was all real.
Oct 01, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Astonishing and griping non-fiction. A Munchausen by proxy murderer of five of her own infants went undetected for two decades, in great part due to a single flawed medical journal article. The back-story of the relentlessly ambitious M.D. who turned a blind eye to the “unthinkable” notion that a mother could murder her babies, was as frightening as the infanticides themselves. Rather than investigate the obvious (and many were voicing their concerns) he chose to advance his own career by foster ...more
Jan 01, 2011 jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
A fascinating, distressing, draining, frustrating, triumphant beast of a book. Sarah was warned that it got a little dense regarding the SIDS information (that she took that to be a good sign that i would enjoy it speaks to her deep understanding of me), and it does, but it is also a true crime story as well as a courtroom drama with one of the most intriguing (not to say deeply disturbing) antagonists i've encountered in quite a while. I got this book for xmas and i just finished it yesterday, ...more
Dec 08, 2010 j rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At least once, I was reading on the subway and missed my stop because I was so sucked-in that I forgot to look up! I haven't been this fascinated by a book in I couldn't tell you how long. I was expecting it to be, you know, interesting enough and all, but not anywhere near this enthralling. Most long-ish true crime books, I find myself about 100 pages in thinking "Are you serious? They are going to drag this out for 200 more pages when everyone already knows exactly how it turns out?" but this, ...more
Jun 16, 2012 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You will not put this book down and you will never forget it. Guaranteed.
Dec 14, 2016 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, guys. This book!

If you get really disturbed by infants in peril, then this isn't for you.

It's about the history of SIDS research and the difficulty of differentiating between SIDS and infanticide with two landmark legal cases at its heart. The writing is fabulous and the research seems quite solid. It's less "true crime" and more intellectual and medical history with legal consequences.

No idea why I'd like that sort of thing.

Anyway, I've read it now four times cover to cover, and will
A prosecutor in upstate New York investigated a family in which three children had all died of SIDS. When he brought in experts he learned that current thinking is that SIDS doesn't run in families and that this looked like murder. The father was subsequently convicted. One of the experts mentioned that a paper that's used to "prove" that SIDS is a family disease was based on a family in New York state who lost five children. He got interested in that case and found the family, along with eviden ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
This is basically a textbook of the SIDS and apnea monitors movement. One researcher at Syracuse Medical Center made a long term study of infants who die with SIDS. He believed from his somewhat faulty research that apnea caused SIDS and began prescribing the newly made infant apnea machines. In addition he did not believe that mothers, the usual person last with an infant, would kill her babies to make it look like SIDS. As others joined the field it was felt, and proven, that in healthy newbor ...more
Kate Fall
Jul 27, 2016 Kate Fall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books where I kept gasping and wanting to read parts out loud to my husband.

This is the story of a woman in Tioga County NY whose 5 children all died in infancy. Was it murder or a familial case of sudden infant death syndrome? Adding to the complexity is the cash-strapped rural county having trouble finding the money to investigate and an ambitious doctor looking to make his name by solving the SIDS mystery.

This book is very long, and some of the medical information coul
Kim Moyer
Jan 14, 2014 Kim Moyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting story and I thought it went quickly considering that it was over 700 pages long. I spend the entire story questioning how no one could have realized what was going on the the main family in the story. To hear the supposed explanations of how these children died, you can't help but know that something is wrong.

As someone who works in academic research (although not clinical work) it is amazing to me that the lies and falsehoods in the 1972 SIDS/apnea paper took so long to
Evanston Public  Library
Death of Innocents is a roller coaster true crime book about infanticide that opens with a case from 1995 and takes the reader back two decades to a case involving a family in which five children all died of SIDS. More than just a true-crime story, it is a stunning expose of corrupt science involving a world renowned SIDS researcher, the medical equipment industry, many in the medical community, and a mother so hungry for attention she was willing to murder her own children to get it.

Rika G.
May 22, 2015 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
It's really hard to assign a rating to a book about infanticide and Munchausen by proxy, but this was a hard-hitting and impeccably researched book not only about the crimes of one woman against her five children, but about the research in the scientific community that allowed dozens of child abuse and infanticide cases to go undetected for years. This was incredibly hard to stomach and not at all the type of book that everyone can, or should, read, but I can't deny its importance or its emotion ...more
The topic itself is both fascinating & horrifying! And there is so much that we the public would never have known about the 'behind the scenes' reasons for the SIDS diagnosis. However, the bulk of the book drags with too much agonizing detail over the doctors' research & becomes mind-numbing in areas. A wonderful topic, an incredible portrayal of the parents committing infanticide, but a little less could have made this a better read.
Megan Kudzia
Apr 16, 2013 Megan Kudzia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing and horrifying and hard to read. The authors do a good job of reminding readers, when the subject matter gets particularly intense, that the number of people who deliberately harm their own children in this way is extremely rare. They do justice to a number of topics - the difficulty in pursuing a criminal case years after the fact, and science's ongoing difficulty understanding and dealing with Sudden Unexpected Death in infants, most prominently. It's a fascinating read.
Aug 18, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this awhile ago, but I still reference this all the time, especially in my library research classes. It is fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. The plot revolves around the topic of a physician caught up in researching SIDS he neglected to focus on the patients really issue, Maunchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Great medical non-fiction.
Sep 14, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God. Years after reading this nonfiction book about a woman with Munchausen by Proxy, I still get chills up my spine thinking about the case and the book. The woman profiled in this book lost five children, supposedly to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Then police got suspicious. Ultimately, Waneta Hoyt confessed to killing her babies. This is a gripping medical mystery.
Following on the heels of Cruel Deception....

This books covers the same subject (Munchausen-by-proxy and SIDS), but focuses more on the medical and research community's role in the confusion between the two.
Aug 21, 2013 Nonny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
I didn't enjoy this book.....actually, it isn't meant to be enjoyed I 'spouse. It it long, not easy to read, and the topic is unthinkable.... That is really the point though. I am glad I read it least now I know. August 21, 2013
Kathleen Zamorski
Medical research history fascinating.

While true crimes are reported here it is the exposure of medical researchers that is most interesting. Ego in the way of truth and hindering investigations. Truly illuminating read.
May 21, 2016 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched and written. The subject matter of parents smothering their children and using SIDS as a diagnosis to hide behind, was so distasteful to me that I read the first case history and subsequent prosecution and just couldn't finish.
Mar 05, 2011 Cate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Really interesting stuff about science and medicine and crime...but also some very sad stories. I'd recommend it, although not for anyone who has trouble reading about bad things happening to kids.
Rachel Jaffe
Jul 17, 2013 Rachel Jaffe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a truly fascinating book. The true crime aspect was interesting enough (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy), but even more interesting was the insight into how this case was so influential in the literature regarding SIDS. It was a big book with a large cast of characters, but very readable.
Feb 25, 2008 Christen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nonfiction. SIDS is a difficult topic to focus on for 600+ pages, but the story behind what was long known about SIDS is absolutely wild. One of my neonatology professors is a SIDS expert who is quoted a few times (Kattwinkel). I'll never forget this one.
Tammy Hambrick-virgili

This is such a heart wrenching and intriguing story told with such attention to detail. The chronology of events is unfolded perfectly. I've read this book so many times over, and will probably read it many more times, in years to come. Outstanding.
Feb 17, 2011 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting. I read it for an attorney I worked for, we were representing a doctor in a case where it was found the mother had Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The doctor was mentioned in this book and the attorney wanted to read it, but didn't have the time.
Mar 26, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An in-depth look at the intersection of infanticide and bad science by way of the trial of one Waneta Hoyt.
Apr 26, 2016 Dora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is extremely well written and engaging as it presents both science, or lack of it, and the horrific topic of infanticide.
May 04, 2016 Patti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Good information. Had to skip some chapters because it was too repetitive. Glad that the mother was brought to justice.
Sara Peattie
Two people who are as different as possible, but are completely awful in different ways, call to eachother across the void, and join together to cause wide-spread havoc.
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