Bill Targeting Intoxicated Co-Sleeping Deaths Gets Senate Committee Hearing

Wisconsin Medical Community Largely Against Bill

Wisconsin Public Television

The Senate Health Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill which makes it a felony to injure or kill an infant while co-sleeping and intoxicated.

The Senate bill is authored by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. Companion legislation in the Assembly is being pushed by Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem. Kerkman predicted few district attorneys would actually use the law if it passed. Still, she thinks it would be effective as a deterrent.

“I personally do not want to have a district attorney use the penalty side of this,” she said.

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Another part of the bill requires health professionals to provide pregnant patients and new parents with educational material about the dangers of bed-sharing while drunk.

The proposal is not gaining a lot of support from the medical community.The state’s hospital association and medical society are against it because it mandates what doctors have to tell patients.

Jessica Gathirimu with the city of Milwaukee Health Department said there are many reasons infants die and they can not always be determined.

“Just because an infant is found dead while sleeping next to an adult, whether intoxicated or not, does not mean that the adult rolled over onto the baby and caused that death,” said Gathirimu.

At the hearing, health officials and children’s groups questioned how effective such a law would be. Other laws could be used to charge a person who harms an infant when co-sleeping while drunk. Also, health groups are concerned it sends a message that sharing a bed with a baby while sober is safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against sharing a bed with infants.

The bill failed to become law in two previous sessions.