Ignored disease or diagnostic dustbin? Sudden infant death syndrome in the British context

Ferguson, A. H. (2015) Ignored disease or diagnostic dustbin? Sudden infant death syndrome in the British context. Social History of Medicine, 28(3), pp. 487-508. (doi: 10.1093/shm/hkv003) (PMID:26217070) (PMCID:PMC4513887)

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was defined in 1969 and incorporated into the International Classification of Diseases a decade later. To advocates of SIDS as a diagnosis, medical interest in sudden infant death was long overdue. However, the definition of SIDS lacked positive diagnostic criteria, provoking some to view it as a ‘diagnostic dustbin’ for the disposal of problematic cases where cause of death was unclear. This paper examines the development of medical interest in sudden infant death in Britain during the middle decades of the twentieth century. It highlights the importance of recognising the historicity of SIDS as a diagnosis facilitated by changes in law and medicine over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It suggests that SIDS provides a definitive case study of the medicalisation of life and death, and a unique example of an officially recognised disease that had no symptoms, signs, pathology or patients.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ferguson, Dr Angus
Authors: Ferguson, A. H.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Social History of Medicine
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1477-4666
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Social History of Medicine 2015
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
376041Enhancement award - history of infant health in 20th century BritainMalcolm NicolsonWellcome Trust (WELLCOME)074301/Z/04/Z/ASPS - ECONOMIC & SOCIAL HISTORY