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Experts to Examine a Controversial Forensic Test That Has Helped Convict Women of Murder

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Photo collage of Boston University (left) and Northeastern University (right) law buildings. A circular image of a pregnant woman's belly lies in the center. Center text reads

ProPublica, November 2023

Legal experts from two universities will convene a group to study a dubious forensic test that has helped send some women to prison for murder though the women insisted they had stillbirths. Last month, ProPublica reported on what’s known as the lung float test, which some medical examiners use to help determine whether a child was stillborn or was born alive and took a breath.

In response to the investigation, Aziza Ahmed, a professor at Boston University School of Law, and Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University, announced they will lead the Floating Lung Test Research Study Group. The group, which will consist of lawyers and medical professionals, will be sponsored by the Boston University Program on Reproductive Justice and the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration at Northeastern University School of Law.

“This is entirely due to the ProPublica report,” Ahmed said last week. “We realized it was time to take action.” The aim of the group is to study the medical underpinnings of the lung float test, also referred to as the floating lung test, and determine whether it should be used in court. ProPublica’s reporting found that although several medical examiners said the test is unreliable, it had been used in at least 11 cases since 2013 in which women were charged criminally, and it has helped to put nine of those women behind bars. Some later had their charges dropped and were released.

Continue reading at ProPublica.

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