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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a leading cause of death in infants. … SIDS has drawn political attention, as evidenced by Congress’ enactment of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act of 1974. Although intensive medical research has been going on for some time, the prevention of or cure for SIDS remains a mystery. One obstacle hampering a medical breakthrough in the area is the absence of a determination of the cause of SIDS. The consensus definition given to SIDS is illustrative of the difficulty medical science is facing in trying to solve this disease entity. The current definition for SIDS is “the sudden death of any infant or young child, which is unexpected by history, and in which a thorough postmortem examination fails to demonstrate an adequate cause for death.” Although this definition is not very enlightening, medical experts had difficulty in agreeing to it. …

One study, the Kelly-Shannon-O’Connell (KSO) project, is the focal point of this article. The KSO study involved the feasibility of home monitoring of infants the researchers identified as being susceptible to SIDS. The study, its conclusions and recommendations have not been totally accepted by all in the field. The purpose of this treatise is not to either defend or criticize the KSO report, nor to advocate any particular treatment as being the “cure” for SIDS. Rather, the article will examine the various legal ramifications involved in home monitoring of near-miss SIDS infants under the direction of a hospital, similar to that advocated by the KSO study.

Two events make this inquiry timely. First, more and more hospitals are planning to begin home monitoring programs. Second, there is unconfirmed word of several lawsuits filed against pediatricians who did not recommend monitors for infants who later died, presumably of SIDS. Thus, it appears that the medical field may find itself in a “no win” situation.


Donald Eugene Theis is an Associate with Eastman, Stichter, Smith & Bergman, Toledo, Ohio; A.B. Xavier University, 1976; J.D. University of Michigan, 1979.

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