|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: DR. DAVID SOUTHALL'S COVERT VIDEOTAPE STUDY HITS PRIME TIME LIVE TONIGHT!
We have just learned that tonight's edition of ABC TV's news magazine, Prime Time Live, will contain a report on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, featuring videotaped surveillance of parents smothering or otherwise abusing their children. The show is scheduled to air at 10 pm EST.
Earlier today, we spoke with the program's public relations office and forwarded information to both the producer and on-air correspondent, urging restraint and accuracy in their portrayal of this issue. Although it is ABC policy to withhold details of specific show contents prior to broadcast, it is our understanding that the segment is based on David Southall's recent report in the November issue of Pediatrics. The report involved covert videotaped surveillance of parents suspected of inducing injury or illness in their children while awaiting treatment in a British hospital. According to Dr. Southall, child abuse was revealed in 33 of the 39 specially selected cases for which covert video surveillance was used.
None of the infants in the Southall study died; however, 11 deaths of siblings of the study victims had previously been attributed to SIDS and in 8 cases (involving 4 families) a parent subsequently admitted to having killed the infant originally diagnosed as having died of SIDS. Frustrating though it may be to all of us in the SIDS community to be linked in any way to this type of study, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a real concern and deserving of attention. We can only hope that our intervention with the program's producer and on-air correspondent prior to final editing will pay off, resulting in the balance and perspective we seek.
Any comments or concerns about the show's content or quality should be addressed to Tom Berman, Producer, Prime Time Live, PHONE (212) 456-1000 or FAX (212) 456-1246 and Cynthia McFadden, Correspondent, FAX (212) 456-1297. The e-mail address for Prime Time Live is: PTLIVE@ ABC.COM.
Hope for the best; expect the worst. Do not hesitate to call us if you have questions.
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