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Cot death risk overestimated

12th June 2007

The possibility of a second child dying after a first has died from cot death in one family is "not significant" according to a new study.

Baby Ward

The report, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, is intended to inform and reassure parents who have lost one child to cot death.

Dr Christopher Bacon, the report's co-author, examined eight studies written since 1970 which had indicated that the chance of cot death occurring again was 1.7 to 10.1 times over the risk facing the general population.

The report is likely to cause controversy, as it opines that "failure to to hold a post-mortem, rule out murder or check for familial causes" means that previous studies were inaccurate.

Dr Bacon said: "My main intention is to get the message across to those parents who have lost their first child that they do not have a significant risk of losing a second."

Several mothers who had been convicted of murdering their children have had their convictions quashed because of studies showing that there is a greater risk of losing a second child to cot death when the first has died from the same reason.

Sir Roy Meadow notoriously told a court in the case of Sally Clark - accused of murdering her two babies - that the risk of losing two babies to cot death was 73m to one. The Royal Statistical Society said the figures were incorrect and the chance was closer to 200 to 1.

"Professor Meadow is one extreme," says Dr Bacon. "But there are extremes at the other end too. Quite simply, there is no evidence to back up the 1 in 200 assertion."

A report published in the British Medical Journal in 2006 also questioned research in the Lancet which said around 90% of second cot deaths in one family were "natural."



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