Family and health-professional interactions

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1988;533:145-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1988.tb37243.x.


Sudden infant deaths are the most common kind of death in infants aged between one month and one year. The unexpectedness, the legal investigation, and the absence of a convincing cause all have a devastating impact on bereaved parents, who look to health professionals for reassurance and explanation. Doctors and nurses may feel inadequate. As a result of the author's 17 years experience helping families and surveying procedures, recommendations on management are made which can be adapted to different health-care and legal systems in other countries. Recommendations include speedy notification of the death to the family's normal health-care advisers, and guidelines for immediate management by hospital accident and emergency staff. Parents need written information and the opportunity to talk with someone compassionate and informed about sudden infant deaths. Suggestions for doctors and nurses stress the importance of immediate support, early explanation of the postmortem report, and continued befriending by other suitable parents. Later counseling should be offered to discuss the care of future children and rebuild parental confidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Counseling
  • England
  • Family*
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Physician's Role
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Sudden Infant Death*