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Ministerial Committee Sets Very High Bar

5 June 2008


Ministerial Committee Sets Very High Bar For Endorsement Of Mattress-Wrapping For Cot Death (SIDS) Prevention

The Minister of Health's Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee has set a ridiculously high bar for researchers before it will contemplate endorsing mattress-wrapping for cot death prevention, stated Dr Jim Sprott today.

On 4 June 2008 Professor Barry Taylor, Chair of the Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee, notified Dr Sprott that at least five years of Coroners' records showing nil cot deaths on wrapped mattresses would be required for official endorsement of mattress-wrapping to occur; and that until such records were available, he was not prepared to discuss the issue.

"This is a ridiculous position for the Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee to take," stated Dr Sprott. "Many Coronial investigations into cot deaths do not gather definitive evidence about the baby's mattress or bedding.

"In 1989 the Ministry of Health started advising face-up sleeping for babies on the basis of preliminary results from the New Zealand Cot Death Study. That was far less evidence than Professor Taylor says is now required for the Ministry to endorse mattress-wrapping," stated Dr Sprott.

A mattress-wrapping protocol for cot death prevention has been publicised nationwide by proponents since 1995. From three published studies reporting the incidence of mattress-wrapping (1), it is calculated that at least 170,000 New Zealand babies have slept on "wrapped mattresses". There has been no reported cot death among those babies.

By contrast, many cot deaths have occurred among babies who were sleeping face-up. "Face-up sleeping certainly doesn't guarantee safety against cot death," stated Dr Sprott.

"In the face of no reported cot deaths on wrapped mattresses over a period of thirteen years, the bar now set by the Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee for official endorsement of mattress-wrapping is utterly indefensible," stated Dr Sprott. "It smacks of medical politics."

Professor Taylor (who is professor of paediatrics at Otago Medical School) is scheduled to address the SIDS 2008 Conference in Britain later this month on the topic of interagency response to cot deaths in New Zealand. Dr Sprott has issued a warning to the University of Otago regarding Professor Taylor's conference presentation.

The University of Otago has referred the matter of Professor Taylor's conference presentation to its legal advisers.

1. NZ Med J 2000; 113: 8-10; NZ Med J 2000; 113: 326-327; Eur J Pediatrics 2008; 167(2): 251-252 (Short Report).


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