Senior Pathologist: Cause of Cot Deaths Still Unclear
According to Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, despite extensive research and investigation into cot deaths, the reason for why they occur is still hard to determine. Bolster made these comments at an inquest in Cork City Coroners Court yesterday, which was held to investigate the death of Myles Murphy, a four-month-old baby who died on January 10 of this year. The cause of death was determined to be sudden infant death syndrome, also known as cot death, and a verdict of natural death was returned by coroner Philip Comyn.
During the inquest, Myles’s mother, Emma Murphy, provided a statement recalling the events leading up to her son’s death. She mentioned that Myles was very active on January 9 and that she spent the entire day with him. She said, “I recall Myles was very active that day. He was really coming into himself. I think I stayed in my room with Myles most of that day.” Emma also mentioned that Myles was full of interaction with other people attending a bingo night in Edel House that night.
Emma described how she and Myles left the bingo and went to her room at around 10pm. She fed Myles his bottle at around 11 or 12 and put him into his cot, where he fell asleep. He woke again at 4.30am on January 10, had a bottle of milk, and went back to sleep. When Emma woke up at around 10am, she found Myles unresponsive with blue cheeks. She noticed that he made a noise and fluid came from him. Emma immediately alerted the staff and Myles was taken to the Mercy University Hospital by ambulance. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, Myles was pronounced dead at 10.36am.
Dr. Bolster conducted an autopsy on Myles and found no evidence of any underlying issues or infections. She explained that sudden infant death syndrome can be categorized into two groups. Category 1 includes children who have had a normal, full-term delivery, sleep in their own cot, and have no history of sudden deaths in siblings or close genetic relatives. Category 2 includes co-sleeping. In Myles’s case, there was no evidence of co-sleeping, and his death fell into the sudden infant death syndrome Category 1 criteria.
Dr. Bolster stated that despite extensive investigations and research, there is still no known cause of death for cot deaths. She did mention that in 5% to 10% of cases, there may be a link with cardiac arrhythmia, similar to sudden adult death syndrome. She explained, “There are two periods of vulnerability [in that 5% to 10% of Category 1 deaths] — the highest risk is around three months and then of course in young adults.”
Emma Murphy expressed her frustration at the lack of information available regarding her son’s death. Dr. Bolster reassured her that “huge volumes” of research have been conducted in this area, and that advancements in genetics may help expand our understanding of cot deaths in the future.