Professor Ed Mitchell
SUDI Academic Expert
Auckland University

Ed Mitchell qualified at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London and has worked in the UK, Zambia and New Zealand.

He was the Cure Kids Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Auckland from 2001 to 2015 and is now a Professorial Research Fellow. He has published over 400 original papers, particularly on the epidemiology of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). He was awarded a Doctor of Science for his work on “The Epidemiology and Prevention of SIDS” by the University of London. He has received several awards for his landmark studies of SIDS and in 2009 was made a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Professor Ed Mitchell answers questions from the community.

What is the difference between SUDI and SIDs and why the terms have changed from "cot death" as it was previously known?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been present since antiquity. Indeed it is described in the Old Testament of the Bible: 1 Kings 3:19 ‘‘And this woman’s child died in the night.’’ “Cot death” was well known to pathologists, but not to paediatricians as they never saw them, as the deaths occurred in the home. These deaths were often labelled as pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung). It was not until 1965 that a specific International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code was allocated for SIDS. SIDS is the scientific term for a sudden unexplained infant death. These deaths generally occur during a sleep, and no cause is found despite a detailed examination of the death scene, medical history and thorough autopsy. Nowadays 50+% of deaths occur in a bed sharing context, so using the term “cot death” is inappropriate. The cause of deaths associated with bed sharing may be labelled as accidental asphyxia (i.e. suffocation), SIDS (that is unexplained) or unascertained (often used when the pathologist cannot distinguish between suffocation and SIDS). The trouble is that one pathologist or coroner might call the death SIDS and another accidental asphyxia. Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) captures all three causes, including unexplained and explained.

  • cot death
  • SUDI
  • SIDS