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

Dr. Abraham B. Bergman, a pediatrician who was instrumental in passing a federal regulation to fight sudden toddler dying syndrome, a as soon as misunderstood loss that prompted not simply parental heartbreak however guilt and blame, and who put his stamp on different enduring public health legal guidelines, died on Nov. 10 in Seattle. He was 91.

The reason for his dying, on a member of the family’s boat, was amyloid coronary heart illness, his son Ben Bergman stated.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, Dr. Bergman was president of the National Foundation for Sudden Infant Death, a grass-roots group that supported mother and father who had misplaced kids to what as soon as was generally referred to as crib dying. Although SIDS, because the syndrome turned recognized, was the main killer of infants lower than a 12 months outdated, its trigger was unknown. Parents typically blamed themselves, marriages broke up and, in some instances, authorities investigated for little one abuse.

“What we do to those parents is crime,” Dr. Bergman informed The New York Times in 1972. “The police investigate, there’s a coroner’s inquest, and often the family doctor abandons the parents.”

Dr. Bergman’s group sought to destigmatize SIDS, help grieving mother and father and lift cash for analysis. Its efforts led to the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act of 1974, which appropriated hundreds of thousands of {dollars} for analysis.

Dr. Bergman, who referred to as his decades-long advocacy for enhancing childhood health “political medicine,” was a passionate witness in hearings on Capitol Hill on a wide range of points. He provided heart-wrenching anecdotes and chastised lawmakers for his or her inaction. But he additionally labored behind the scenes as a de facto lobbyist to maneuver payments. Cultivating ties to 2 influential U.S. senators from Washington State, Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson, he was unusually profitable as a non-public citizen who influenced laws.

“Magnuson really trusted Abe, who had his ear and motivated him to do a lot,” stated Eric Redman, a former legislative aide to Mr. Magnuson.

In 1967, Dr. Bergman jolted Mr. Magnuson by taking him to the burn unit of a Seattle kids’s hospital and exhibiting him younger sufferers who had been badly injured when their garments caught fireplace. Before a Senate subcommittee that Mr. Magnuson led, Dr. Bergman held up a flannel nightgown of the sort {that a} 2-year-old lady has been sporting when it ignited from an area heater, burning her over 85 % of her body. “You senators are in a position to save far more lives than physicians,” he stated. In response, Congress toughened and broadened the Flammable Fabrics Act to require extra flame-resistant clothes.

In 1970, Dr. Bergman proposed to Mr. Magnuson the concept for the National Health Service Corps, a federal program to pay health care suppliers’ pupil debt in trade for a stint of doctoring in poor communities. Dr. Bergman enlisted medical college students to foyer key members of Congress of their house districts. He personally went to West Virginia to place pressure on Representative Harley Orrin Staggers, whose district was one of many neediest within the nation. President Richard M. Nixon signed the National Health Service Corps into regulation in December 1970, simply 10 months after Dr. Bergman had proposed it.

Working with Mr. Jackson’s workplace, Dr. Bergman additionally helped draft the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976, which expanded funding for care to Native Americans, and lobbied for its passage on Capitol Hill.

“Jackson effectively added Abe to his staff for the legislative effort,” Mr. Redman recalled.

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

He graduated from Reed College in 1954 and obtained his medical diploma from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland in 1958. He was a pediatric resident at Boston Children’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the place he lived for a time.

He started his profession at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the place he was director of outpatient providers for 19 years, after which moved to Harborview Medical Center, the place he was chief of pediatrics from 1983 to 2005. He continued to serve on the school of the University of Washington School of Medicine till 2016.

Dr. Bergman’s marriages to Judy Maslin, Ann (Bigelow) Bergman and Suzanne Fiala led to divorce..

In addition to his son Ben, Dr. Bergman is survived by seven different kids: Anna and Matthew Bergman, Sarah Bergman Lewis, Becca Bull and Pavel, Eugeny and Yulia Fiala, who had been adopted from orphanages in Russia. He can also be survived by six grandchildren.

When Dr. Bergman started researching crib dying, specialists had largely discarded its many supposed causes, together with suffocation in bedclothes, allergy to cows’ milk and lead poisoning. A principle Dr. Bergman proposed was that infants skilled a spasm of the vocal cords that closed off the airway throughout sleep.

At a analysis convention in Seattle in 1969, the time period sudden toddler dying syndrome was first formally proposed as a analysis.

In 1973, Dr. Bergman testified earlier than Congress, armed with a report about how regulation enforcement, coroners and oldsters in 158 communities responded when a toddler died out of the blue in a crib. There had been discrepancies in how health authorities handled mother and father of various races; solely half as many Black mother and father as white mother and father had been informed their baby had died from SIDS. One Alabama coroner, quoted within the report, attributed a SIDS dying to suffocation as a result of “Blacks do not know how to care for their children properly.”

During the listening to, he castigated lawmakers for his or her inaction: “Maybe it’s the heat or maybe it’s the smog. Government officials here in Washington are always busy, busy, busy with big problems.”

The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act was handed quickly after.

Today, the reason for SIDS continues to be a medical thriller, however the incidence of deaths has declined sharply since 1990. The purpose generally cited is a rise in public consciousness of threat components. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that folks put infants to sleep on their backs of their first 12 months and that moms breastfeed infants, which has been proven to decrease the chance of SIDS.

Jerry Grinstein, a former Senate aide who later turned the chief government of Delta Air Lines, recalled in an electronic mail that Dr. Bergman first approached Commerce Committee workers members about SIDS within the late 1960s, however that it took a couple of years to develop laws and public help.

Committee members and workers “got the job done,” Mr. Grinstein wrote. “But it was Abe’s inspiration and persistence to use legislation supported by compelling stories from fellow professionals, plus hurting parents.”


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