A Western Bay doctor is backing calls from leading children's health experts to blood-test negligent parents whose actions result in babies' deaths.
A report from the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee shows a dramatic reduction in annual Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) cases, which dropped from 200 to a record low of 60 last year.
But it warns that too many babies and young children continue to die from preventable harm.
Dr Tony Farrell of Mount Medical Centre said a recommendation from review committee chair Dr Nick Baker to blood-test parents in SUDI cases where there has been profound negligence could help keep children safe.
"I fully agree that compulsory blood-testing of parents whose babies suffer sudden death would be important, not just for accountability, but for information relating to the cause of death."
Last week an East Coast couple were sentenced after being found guilty of endangering their baby's life.
The 10-week-old boy died after being put to bed with his mother, who had been drinking heavily. Two years ago, a Rotorua woman was jailed after her 2-month-old boy died while sleeping with his heavily intoxicated mother in the back of a car. The baby slipped under her arm and suffocated.
Dr Farrell said blood-testing of parents in suspicious SUDI could prevent further harm.
"The principle of paramountcy for children should govern our approach to trying to reduce any preventable cause of sudden death," he said. "This hopefully would lead to systemic attempts to rectify the problem."
Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills also backed Dr Baker's recommendation - and specified it would only be appropriate in suspicious cases.
"Sometimes adults simply refuse to follow advice and they choose to endanger their children," Dr Wills said.
"They drive drunk with the kids in the car, they don't ensure that kids wear the seatbelt that's fitted, they choose to co-sleep with a baby when they're drunk, even when [support networks] are in place."
Dr Baker said higher death rates among Maori and Pacific infants was also concerning.
Between 2003 and 2007, the SUDI rate for Maori and Pacific was 2.34 per 1000 infants and 1.31, respectively.
It was 0.53 for "other" infants, which included European babies.