18 Mar 2013

Call for blood tests in infant death cases opposed

8:02 pm on 18 March 2013

A Hastings doctor is criticising a call by a leading paediatrician to allow police to blood-test the parents of babies that die suddenly while sleeping.

The call by Nick Baker was prompted by the case of an East coast couple who lost a baby to the Sudi (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy) syndrome after the mother drank a box of beer and shared a bed with her child. It was the second child the parents had lost in similar circumstances.

Dr Baker says blood-testing parents could help with police prosecutions in cases where parents are suspected of having drunk alcohol.

But a Hastings safe-sleep researcher, David Tipene-Leach, says there are many reasons babies die in their sleep, and the parents are not always to blame.

He says doctors should be focussing on preventing infant deaths rather than punishing parents.

Dr Baker, who chairs the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, said earlier: "I think it shouldn't happen in every case, but in certain cases where there seems to have been profound negligence it would be an empowering legislation for police."

He says New Zealand has the highest Sudi rate in the developed world.

A spokesperson for National Sudi Prevention for Maori also opposes blood tests.

Kodi Harpi says the only reason for such a test would be for prosecution and that is not the way to save the lives of Maori babies.

"I think that we need to be implementing solutions where we're supporting families and using aroha as a basis for the solution not fear."