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 SIDS and SUDI? Much of the available information on Safe Sleep is geared towards preventing suffocation.

Terminology has changed over time. It was once called ‘cot death’ despite many of the deaths not occurring in the cot. It was then changed to SIDS which is unexplained infant death. SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) is a broader term than SIDS. It includes unexplained deaths (that is SIDS) and sleep related deaths from asphyxia or suffocation, such as may occur while bed sharing. In part this change has been driven by changes in diagnostic fashion. One pathologist might call the death SIDS, another suffocation in bed while bed sharing and another unascertained. SUDI captures all the deaths that were once labelled SIDS or cot death. SIDS is by definition unexplained, and therefore cannot be predicted or prevented. However, we can predict what increases the risk and we know that the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign and the Safe Sleep programme has and is reducing mortality. The good thing about describing the mechanism as due to suffocation is that it suffocation is obviously preventable.

  • asphyxia
  • suffocation