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Education needed on baby deaths - coroner

Friday 1 Feb 2013 4:30 p.m.



A Rotorua coroner says it's sad baby deaths caused by poor sleeping practices are not getting the same attention as less frequent child abuse deaths.

Coroner Wallace Bain made the comments in his report on the death of two-month-old Tahi Edwards, accidentally suffocated by his mother after she went to sleep in a car following a 12-hour drinking binge.

The mother, Ngaire Kura Tukiwaho, 31, was jailed last year for two years and a month for Tahi's manslaughter.

Tukiwaho had been drinking for at least 12 hours and had argued with her partner before falling asleep in the car, with Tahi lying across her chest. She woke to find Tahi had slipped under her armpit, and was blue and unresponsive.

Tukiwaho had lost another child three years beforehand to Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy, or SUDI.

Mr Bain said about 55 to 60 babies died every year due to unsafe sleeping arrangements, all of which were preventable.

He noted all such deaths did not get the publicity of deaths through child abuse such as those of the Kahui twins and Nia Glassie.

"They were three deaths. Any number of inquiries and commissions has resulted," he said.

"But here we have on a continuing basis a huge number of annual preventable deaths of young babies in New Zealand and we seem to have almost become immune to it."

He said more education was needed to get the message through that the safest place for a baby to sleep in its first six months was in a cot beside the parental bed, and that bed-sharing between infants and adults exposed the infant to the risk of death.

"It is a tragedy that these deaths occur. It is even more of a tragedy that we do not appear to be putting the necessary resources in place so that these preventable deaths are in fact prevented."


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