|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: Embargo Broken on Southall Study on Life-threatening Child Abuse,
Scheduled for November Publication in Pediatrics
We have just received word that, a week early and "under extreme pressure from London reporters," Dr. David Southall has broken the media embargo on interviews surrounding the release of his highly controversial new study, "Covert Video Recordings of Life Threatening Child Abuse: Lessons for Child Protection." The Southall study was originally embargoed for release until Monday, November 3, 1997, at 5:00 P.M., E.T.; the American Academy of Pediatrics had planned to position the study for public consumption through a press conference from their annual meeting in New Orleans that was to precede the press embargo on that date.
The study, which involved the use of hidden videotape recordings, revealed what the authors considered to be life-threatening abuse in 33 of 39 suspected cases, with documentation of intentional suffocation observed in 30 patients. While none of the patients in the study actually died, the 39 patients had 41 siblings, 12 of whom had previously died suddenly and unexpectedly. Eleven of the siblings' deaths had been originally classified as SIDS.
While there is no denying that parentally-induced illness in children exists, and that it is a form of child abuse that may be preventable through greater vigilance on the part of medical professionals, we must continue to reinforce the message that the possibility of child abuse fatalities being misdiagnosed as SIDS is miniscule. Until autopsies are mandated by every state and death scene investigations are carried out by trained professionals, there will continue to be isolated instances where abuse or other causes of death are signed out as SIDS.
Unfortunately, losing the opportunity to properly position the Southall study will undoubtedly increase the media's feeding frenzy on this issue. Reporters are simply not distinguishing between Apparent Life Threatening Events (ALTEs) and SIDS. The situation is further clouded by the lack of definitive data on what percentage of subsequent siblings die of SIDS, and the difficulties in distinguishing between SIDS and some child abuse fatalities in autopsy.
YOU CAN EXPECT A MEDIA ONSLAUGHT SURROUNDING THE RELEASE OF THIS STUDY. BE SURE TO IDENTIFY A PARENT SPOKESPERSON AND ALERT YOUR MEDICAL ADVISOR IMMEDIATELY.
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