Director-General Of Health Concedes Toxic Gas A Possible Cause Of Cot Death
The Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, has conceded that toxic gas may be a cause of cot death.
In a letter to Dr Jim Sprott dated 29 August 2000 Dr Poutasi stated that the Ministry regards gaseous poisoning as "one
possible cause of SIDS".
Dr Sprott has called on Dr Poutasi to commence publicity advising parents to wrap their babies' mattresses for cot death
"Dr Poutasi can't have it both ways," said Dr Sprott. "She cannot on the one hand say that toxic gas is a possible cause
of cot death, and on the other hand refuse to tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses."
In this regard, Dr Sprott explained, the toxic gas theory is quite unlike other cot death theories (e.g. the narrow
airways theory). "Unlike other cot death theories, the toxic gas theory has a known preventive measure. So if an
advisory agency like the Ministry says that toxic gas may cause cot death, it has a clear responsibility to advise
parents to wrap babies' mattresses as a precaution."
Dr Sprott envisages the possibility of legal negligence actions by bereaved parents if the Ministry does not publicise
mattress-wrapping for cot death prevention. "The Ministry have known about mattress-wrapping since the early 1990s. They
know that there has been no reported cot death on a wrapped mattress, but they refuse to publicise mattress-wrapping
"Now that the Ministry have conceded that toxic gas is a possible cause of cot death, they have come one step nearer
negligence liability if they don't tell parents to wrap babies' mattresses," said Dr Sprott.