Once could be a tragic mistake


Two or three decades ago cot deaths were sadly not uncommon in New Zealand.

When my sons were in hospital in Dunedin a lot of research was being done and protocols were established to protect babies.

That is now routine advice – put babies to sleep on their backs and don’t share beds with them.

But not everyone gets the advice, or heeds it. I’ve noticed several stories in recent months of babies dying when sharing beds.

All are tragedies and this is more than tragic:

An East Coast couple, 31-year-old Sybil Harrison and Elray Marsh, were sentenced to intensive supervision in the Gisborne District Court yesterday. They admitted they put 10-week-old Elray Jr in bed with Ms Harrison after she’d been drinking heavily in 2011.

The death followed an incident with the couple’s baby daughter just a year earlier, who died in similar circumstances. . .

The death of one child from a preventable cause is a tragic mistake.

The second is tragic and there is no suggestion it was deliberate, but how could anyone not learn from the first tragedy?

Apropos of this case is a report which says 50 infants have died from suffocation:

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee says it’s becoming clear a considerable proportion of deaths that might previously have been attributed to sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI) have occurred because of unsafe sleeping situations.

The research found that of 79 cases of unintentional suffocation between 2002 and 2009, 50 involved infants who died where they were sleeping.

The overwhelming majority – 96% – of the deaths were of children under one and they were often caused by what the report calls overlay by another person. . .

These were preventable deaths.

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