|The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance||1314 Bedford Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21208
TO: Affiliate Presidents and Executive Directors
FROM: Phipps Cohe, National Public Affairs Director
RE: Upcoming National Network Television Coverage Revisits Waneta Hoyt Case, Apnea Theory Of SIDS, And Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy--All At The Same Time!
We have been contacted by NBC Dateline, CBS Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel, and CNN regarding their intention to produce national network television coverage within the next week or two, prompted by Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan's book "The Death of Innocents." Particular attention appears to be focused on the authors' contention that serial cases of child abuse (such as the Waneta Hoyt affair) may have been covered up by physicians supporting the apnea theory of SIDS and studying babies on monitors, in collusion with the monitoring industry. Considering initial press reports, we can only speculate that the TV coverage will be highly sensational, extremely biased and painful for many SIDS families.
In addition to the promotional efforts of the book's publishers, the flames of controversy are being stoked by Jerold Lucey, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the medical journal, Pediatrics. The October 1997 edition of Pediatrics will run a public apology from Dr. Lucey for printing the original report by Alfred Steinschneider, MD, PhD, linking familial cases of apnea and SIDS in Lucey's inaugural issue as editor of the journal twenty-five years ago. In his editorial, Dr. Lucey will also suggest that every pediatrician in the U.S. read the Firstman and Talan book. In the November issue of Pediatrics, Dr. Lucey will feature two pieces pertaining to Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy -- a new report by David Southall from England and the conclusions of Thomas Truman. These reports present data suggesting that a number of SIDS deaths and/or apparent life threatening events (ALTEs) may actually be induced by mothers trying to get attention or sympathy from medical professionals, their families, and communities.
It is our expectation that there will be a sustained battle with the media over the next few months, not just one or two isolated stories. Most of the reports will be highly sensational; many will be disturbingly graphic and extremely painful for SIDS families. Alert your Peer Contacts, support group facilitators and your families. Whether we like it or not, the media may be relentless in their pursuit of this topic.
The following is a brief description of what you can expect to see on national television over the next week or two:
Sunday, September 28: NBC Dateline has scheduled Dr. Thomas Truman to discuss his allegations about a child abuse cover-up by apnea program physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. Based upon discussions with the Dateline producer, we understand that NBC is hoping to also interview the Chairman of Pediatrics at Mass General to respond to these charges. In addition, Joel and Susan Hollander have been interviewed, presenting their perspectives as SIDS parents. The 7-8 minute segment is currently scheduled for this Sunday at 7:00 pm ET. Any comments or concerns about the show's content or quality should be addressed to Elizabeth Fisher, Producer, NBC Dateline, PHONE (212) 664-5208 / FAX (212) 664-2426.
Wednesday, October 8: The new CBS Bryant Gumbel show, Public Eye, will air an exclusive interview with Jamie Talan and Richard Firstman, the husband and wife teamed authors of the "The Death of Innocents" to promote their book. In addition to Talan and Firstman, CBS plans to interview Dr. Lucey; Dr. Steinschneider; a doctor from Long Island Jewish Hospital who utilizes monitors with premature babies; and several SIDS couples connected with the SIDS Center of New Jersey/CJ Foundation for SIDS. Any comments or concerns about the show's content or quality should be addressed to Bill McGowan, Producer, Public Eye, CBS News, PHONE (212) 975-9353 / FAX (212) 975-3110.
CNN, a latecomer to the foray, has already interviewed Dr. Lucey. To our knowledge, a broadcast date has not been set yet. Stay tuned!
It seems probable that the book and the medical controversy in Pediatrics will continue to be magnified over the next two months by a media circus. It also is likely that the combined impact of all of this negative publicity could be on a collision course with your efforts to promote SIDS Awareness Month and the Back To Sleep campaign.
Appeal To Local Newspeople You Can Trust
It may prove difficult, but it is possible to use this media attention to advance our cause. We can proactively focus our local media efforts on promoting mandatory autopsy legislation; standardized death scene investigation protocols; and positive public education initiatives to reduce the risks of SIDS. We must also attempt to present the facts about SIDS and put these other reports in perspective. It is critical that your Medical Advisors are aware of the issues and available for response. Use knowledgeable medical professionals to combat scientific misinformation. If you need help, please call us at the national office.
We will try to keep you informed of any additional national coverage. We ask that you also keep us aware of any brewing situations within your community. If we work together, we can keep the gains in knowledge and in the treatment of SIDS families that the SIDS community has painstakingly made over the past 25 years from being eroded.
Prepare Yourself! Alert Your Medical Advisors! Notify Your Support Providers! Warn Your Membership! Eventually, this too shall pass.
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