Abraham Bergman, Doctor Who Sought Answers on SIDS, Dies at 91

Dr. Abraham B. Bergman, a pediatrician who was instrumental in passing a federal legislation to battle sudden infant death syndrome, a as soon as misunderstood decline that caused not just parental heartbreak but guilt and blame, and who place his stamp on other enduring public well being guidelines, died on Nov. 10 in Seattle. He was 91.

The induce of his loss of life, on a family members member’s boat, was amyloid heart disease, his son Ben mentioned.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, Dr. Bergman was president of the Nationwide Foundation for Sudden Infant Loss of life, a grass-roots team that supported mother and father who had lost kids to what was after usually known as crib loss of life. While SIDS, as the syndrome grew to become recognised, was the top killer of infants much less than a year aged, its lead to was unidentified. Mom and dad often blamed themselves, marriages broke up and, in some instances, the authorities investigated for boy or girl abuse.

“What we do to people moms and dads is criminal offense,” Dr. Bergman instructed The New York Occasions in 1972. “The police examine, there is a coroner’s inquest, and normally the family doctor abandons the mother and father.”

Dr. Bergman’s group sought to destigmatize SIDS, guidance grieving parents and raise cash for research. Its attempts led to the Unexpected Toddler Dying Syndrome Act of 1974, which appropriated tens of millions of dollars for study.

Dr. Bergman, who identified as his many years-prolonged advocacy for bettering childhood wellbeing “political drugs,” was a passionate witness in hearings on Capitol Hill on a wide range of concerns. He provided coronary heart-wrenching anecdotes and chastised lawmakers for their inaction. But he also labored powering the scenes as a de facto lobbyist to shift bills. Cultivating ties to two influential U.S. senators from Washington Point out, Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson, he was unusually productive as a non-public citizen who motivated legislation.

“Magnuson seriously trusted Abe, who experienced his ear and motivated him to do a whole lot,” claimed Eric Redman, a previous legislative aide to Mr. Magnuson.

In 1967, Dr. Bergman jolted Mr. Magnuson by taking him to the burn off unit of a Seattle children’s medical center and displaying him youthful clients who experienced been poorly hurt when their outfits caught hearth. Ahead of a Senate subcommittee that Mr. Magnuson led, Dr. Bergman held up a flannel nightgown of the form that a 2-12 months-previous female has been sporting when it ignited from a room heater, burning her above 85 p.c of her overall body.

“You senators are in a situation to help save significantly much more life than physicians,” he reported.

In reaction, Congress toughened and broadened the Flammable Materials Act to involve extra flame-resistant outfits.

In 1970, Dr. Bergman proposed to Mr. Magnuson the concept for the Nationwide Wellness Services Corps, a federal software to encourage medical doctors, dentists and nurses to do the job for a time in inadequate communities. Dr. Bergman enlisted clinical pupils to foyer essential customers of Congress in their residence districts. He personally went to West Virginia to place strain on Consultant Harley Orrin Staggers, whose district was 1 of the neediest in the nation.

President Richard M. Nixon signed the National Overall health Support Corps into legislation in December 1970, just 10 months just after Dr. Bergman experienced proposed it.

Operating with Mr. Jackson’s business, Dr. Bergman also aided draft the Indian Well being Treatment Enhancement Act of 1976, which expanded funding for treatment to Indigenous People, and lobbied for its passage on Capitol Hill.

“Jackson properly additional Abe to his personnel for the legislative work,” Mr. Redman recalled.

Abraham Baer Bergman, known as Abe, was born in Seattle on May possibly 11, 1932, to Fred and Minnie (Hurwitz) Bergman. His father owned a baggage retail store, and his mom was a homemaker.

He graduated from Reed College, in Portland, Ore., in 1954 and obtained his professional medical degree from Western Reserve College (now Case Western Reserve College) in Cleveland in 1958. He was a pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital in London, wherever he lived for a time.

Dr. Bergman started his profession at Seattle Children’s Medical center, exactly where he was director of outpatient providers for 19 many years, and then moved to Harborview Healthcare Middle in that town, the place he was chief of pediatrics from 1983 to 2005. He ongoing to provide on the school of the College of Washington School of Medication until eventually 2016.

His marriages to Judy Maslan, Ann Bigelow and Suzanne Fiala ended in divorce.

In addition to his son Ben, Dr. Bergman is survived by seven other youngsters: Anna and Matthew Bergman, Sarah Bergman Lewis, Becca Bull and Pavel, Eugeny and Yulia Fiala, who were adopted from orphanages in Russia. He is also survived by 6 grandchildren.

When Dr. Bergman started investigating crib dying, authorities experienced mainly discarded its many supposed brings about, such as suffocation in bedclothes, allergy to cows’ milk and lead poisoning. A theory Dr. Bergman proposed was that infants expert a spasm of the vocal cords that closed off the airway throughout slumber.

At a research conference in Seattle in 1969, the time period sudden infant dying syndrome was first formally proposed as a analysis.

In 1973, Dr. Bergman testified in advance of Congress, armed with a report about how regulation enforcement, coroners and dad and mom in 158 communities responded when a baby died out of the blue in a crib. There were being discrepancies in how the health and fitness authorities treated mother and father of various races only 50 % as quite a few Black parents as white dad and mom were told their little one had died from SIDS. A single Alabama coroner, quoted in the report, attributed a SIDS dying to suffocation since “Blacks do not know how to treatment for their young children properly.”

Through the listening to, he castigated lawmakers for their inaction. “Maybe it’s the warmth or maybe it is the smog,” he mentioned. “Government officers right here in Washington are normally busy, hectic, fast paced with major problems.”

The Sudden Toddler Loss of life Syndrome Act was handed quickly right after.

Today, the lead to of SIDS is nevertheless a health care mystery, but the incidence of deaths has declined sharply given that 1990. The purpose commonly cited is an improve in general public recognition of risk things. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses that mom and dad place toddlers to snooze on their backs in their to start with yr and that moms breastfeed infants, which has been demonstrated to decreased the hazard of SIDS.

Jerry Grinstein, a previous Senate aide who turned the chief executive of Delta Air Strains, recalled in an e-mail that Dr. Bergman very first approached Commerce Committee staff members associates about SIDS in the late 1960s, but that it took a several decades to develop laws and community help.

Committee members and staff “got the position completed,” Mr. Grinstein wrote. “But it was Abe’s inspiration and persistence to use laws supported by compelling stories from fellow professionals, moreover hurting parents.”