Anne Diamond: 'I almost sued the government for my son Sebastian's death - they did nothing to avoid it'

Anne Diamond: 'I almost sued the government for my son Sebastian's death - they did nothing to avoid it'

WATCH HERE: Anne Diamond opens up on her trailblazing cot death prevention campaign

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 15/03/2024

- 08:18

Anne Diamond OBE has opened up on her trailblazing efforts to raise awareness of cot death prevention to GBN Members

GB News star Anne Diamond tragically lost her third son Sebastian to cot death back in 1991 when he was just four months old.

Over three decades after launching the Back to Sleep campaign which encouraged parents to place newborns on their backs, Diamond has reflected on her life-saving work and why she turned the grief of losing her son into pioneering campaigning.

"I think the main point is that there were no campaigns against cot death because it was just seen as one of those terrible tragedies that happened to people," Anne explains, speaking amid the Lullaby Trust's Safer Sleep Week.

"I suppose it was seen a bit like miscarriage. It was just one of those terrible things that sometimes happen to people. And you just have to sort of put up with it and actually get over it, smile and have another one. It was really that bad.

"There have been terrible tragedies where people had experienced cot death and some families that have multiple cot deaths - yet nothing was understood about it. I mean, it was deemed suspicious for many years.

"Then gradually there was a greater understanding of it, but still nobody really understood why it was happening, and whether or not to suspect couples whose child died in those circumstances, or whether to be sympathetic to them."

Anne Diamond

Anne Diamond has opened up about her campaign with GBN Members


When asked if there were failings by the administration at the time, Diamond agreed: "There were (failings), but it if you look at it, it's a very complex history.

"Basically, before the 1950s you always set babies on their backs. Everybody did. But there became a trend and it is thought that the trend came from America where they were pioneering the care of plenty of premature babies.

"Premature babies in an incubator, they do better very often if they're lying on their tummies with a little bottom stuck up in the air - it became an image of incredibly good childcare.

"This idea, this image of a beautiful baby in an incubator, in a little nappy with its bottom stuck up in the air, that became the image of great care.

"And it is true that premature babies still do better very often on their tummies but once they are out of the incubator and they are deemed to be fit to go home, they really have got to be on their backs. But nobody knew that at the time."

"The 1991 Back to Sleep campaign which I pioneered was the game-changer. It happened at a time when they had made this major breakthrough in New Zealand.

"New Zealand had told Australia about it and they had told the UK about it but we, while Sebastian lived (and) when he died, we in Britain were kept ignorant deliberately so that we would act as a control for what was going on in New Zealand and Australia so that the scientists would be able to compare the data.

"That is something that I still, 32 years later, feel so angry about, I can't even tell you.

"I used to go to Australia a lot. Sebastian was my third son and it's not very easy to travel to Australia with one child (or) two children, but it's almost impossible with three.

"So that was the first year we didn't go to Australia for the winter, which is what I had done previously. If I had, I would have heard all their local campaigning and Sebastian would be alive today.

"But we didn't. And the unforgivable thing is that we in Britain got very academic about it and apparently, we were told about the amazing work that they were doing in New Zealand, Australia, and actually in Bristol, here in Britain. But we had decided, as a Department of Health, to keep British mums and dads ignorant of life-saving advice.

"When I came back from New Zealand, I demanded that we must have the same, exactly the same sort of campaign here in the UK.

"The Department of Health was very, very difficult - they didn't really want to know, said that it might take a few years to set up a working party of experts.

"To which I said, 'Well, I could fly them over from New Zealand now. We have British experts, we can get all the doctors and specialists together now and they will agree we need a campaign now. And we're wasting time every day we deliver on this. We're wasting time.'

Anne Diamond

Anne Diamond almost sued the government for her son's death


"They prevaricated and I thought the only thing I could think to do now was sue the government for causing Sebastian's death. And I was on the brink of doing that.

"I was on the brink of raising a lawsuit against the government. Because they had, I believe - still believe - they had done nothing to help me avoid his death and there must have been so many other mothers like me, during that period when New Zealand and Australia were actively campaigning and really getting results.

"Sebastian had died and so many other babies had and I believe the government was culpable. And I was about to raise a lawsuit against them when, in the end, they changed their mind.

"We decided to go ahead with a proper government campaign and I got the TV ad that I wanted and everything else and it made the difference. "I'm still very, very angry at that particular government and their attitude."

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