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The analysis of the use of ‘unascertained’ for sudden unexpected deaths in infancy from 1988 to 2010
  1. Elinor Crisp,
  2. Steven A Julious
  1. Medical Statistics Group, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Steven A Julious, Professor of Medical Statistics, Medical Statistics Group, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, 30 Regent Court, Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK; S.A.Julious{at}

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In England and Wales, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has had a near eightfold decline, from 2.3 deaths per 1000 live births in 1988 to 0.3 in 2009.1 Most of this decline can be attributed to the ‘back to sleep’ campaign in 1991 which led to a 75% drop.2 From 1995, part of this fall could be attributed to the introduction of the classification of some deaths as ‘unascertained’.3 This has led to concerns being raised.

In 2004, a report of a working group convened by The Royal College of Pathologists and The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy recommended that deaths should no longer be recorded …

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  • Contributors SAJ conceived the work. EC collected the data and undertook the analysis. SAJ and EC drafted the manuscript. EC undertook this work as part of the Student Selected Component for a Medical Degree at the University of Sheffield.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All the data are presented in the manuscript and can be shared.