Tuesday , November 12 2019
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Some sense from Emily

Summary:
More oddities from the Coroners' Office brings a response from Emily Writes over at The Spinoff - and from 400 doctors! Yet pathologist Dr Simon Stables and Coroner Debra Bell could not ascertain Sapphire’s direct cause of death. Somehow, as we have seen before with coroners, this has been translated into a blanket message for mothers. This time it’s not to have alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. This is an easy comment to make – as popular as “don’t let your child walk to school” or “don’t ever co-sleep”.This time, however, a groundswell of medical professionals have hit back. More than 400 doctors have so far signed an open letter to the coroner expressing their concerns at the judgement and questioning whether the amount of alcohol in Sapphire’s system could have been ingested through

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Yet pathologist Dr Simon Stables and Coroner Debra Bell could not ascertain Sapphire’s direct cause of death. Somehow, as we have seen before with coroners, this has been translated into a blanket message for mothers. This time it’s not to have alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. This is an easy comment to make – as popular as “don’t let your child walk to school” or “don’t ever co-sleep”.

This time, however, a groundswell of medical professionals have hit back. More than 400 doctors have so far signed an open letter to the coroner expressing their concerns at the judgement and questioning whether the amount of alcohol in Sapphire’s system could have been ingested through breastmilk alone. The letter, which The Spinoff has seen, was written by Dr Heather Johnston in collaboration with other doctors around the country. Dr Johnston said she was astonished by the Coroner’s judgements.

“General consensus is that a breastfeeding mother consuming alcohol in moderation is unlikely to put her baby at risk. A mother who has a drink or two, and would still be under the New Zealand blood alcohol limit to drive (50mg alcohol/ 100ml) would have a breastmilk alcohol level of 50mg/ 100mL (or 0.05% alcohol by volume) – which is the same as a glass of orange or apple juice, a ripe banana, and less than a glass of kombucha or some types of bread rolls,” she told The Spinoff in an email.

“There is no evidence that a baby being fed breastmilk with this kind of alcohol concentration is at risk of harm. If a woman is safe to drive, she is safe to feed her baby breastmilk.”

I think that this is the first time I've ever seen an open letter, from doctors, warning that someone had overstated alcohol's harms. Had to figure it'd be a coroner who'd do it though.

Recall that Coroners are asked to list anything that might prevent similar deaths in future, regardless of costs and benefits or whether the measure is either reasonable or practicable.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from an old movie, if you want to imagine being a coroner, in writing these reports, you can start by imagining a doctor, and then take away reasonableness and accountability. There's good reason that coroner recommendations are not policy.

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