Medical Expert Witness Testifies on SIDS

Bristol University’s Institute of Child Life and Health is releasing a study this week which found that 9 out of 10 mothers whose babies suffered SIDS smoked during pregnancy. The study says women who smoke during pregnancy are four times more likely than non-smokers to see their child fall victim to SIDS. Ms. Angela Cannings, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, maintained her babies died from SIDS but was jailed for life in April 2002 after she was found guilty of smothering her two sons. At her appeal, Professor Robert Carpenter, a medical expert witness specializing in statistics, said the babies had been at a “substantially increased risk” of SIDS because they may have been exposed to cigarette smoke. The Independent also writes:

The comprehensive report will make a strong case for the Government to increase the scope of anti-smoking legislation. It even suggests a possible move to try to ban pregnant women from getting tobacco altogether. The study, produced by Bristol University’s Institute of Child Life and Health, is based on analysis of the evidence of 21 international studies on smoking and cot death. The report, co-authored by Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental physiology, and Dr. Peter Blair, senior research fellow, will be published this week in the medical journal Early Human Development.

Scientists are working to the theory that exposure to smoke during the pregnancy or just after birth has an effect on brain chemicals in the foetus or in infants, increasing the risk of SIDS.
Speaking about the new report, Dr Blair said: ‘If smoking is a cause of SIDS, and the evidence suggests it is, we think that if all parents stopped smoking tomorrow more than 60 per cent of SIDS deaths would be prevented.’