SADS - sudden unexplained death 

Cardiac Risk in the Young is a national UK charity formed in 1995 to raise awareness of heart conditions and defects which if undetected can lead to sudden death - SADS in young people (under 35).  The links below all point to pages within the Cardiac Risk in the Young Web site which I maintain.

In February 2004 a new Web site SADS - Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome was launched to allow access to a booklet produced by Cardiac Risk in the Young with sponsorship from the British Heart Foundation to help families understand more about the conditions.

My work with CRY has involved helping to raise awareness primarily by developing their Web site.  A resource for families who have suffered a loss or are concerned about symptoms which may indicate one of the several causes of sudden cardiac death.  The site contains medical information written by specialist cardiologists and information about treatments such as pacemakers, defibrillators and ablation.  The site also has areas about fundraising and media exposure, which are updated weekly.

In the UK unexplained sudden death is frequently recorded as due to death from natural causes. Experts believe that most of these deaths are due to Sudden Death Syndrome or Sudden Cardiac Death often referred to as SADS. Until the law is changed and coroners have to refer hearts on to specialists we will not know the true figures.

Any death of which the cause is not immediately known has by law to be reported to the Coroner. This is in addition to deaths that are due to non - natural causes. One third of all deaths are now reported to the Coroner 

If it can be established, clearly and reasonably quickly, that the death is not due to some non - natural causes or outside influence such as injury, drugs, poisoning, etc., but is due to a cause, however unexpected or rare, that arises from spontaneously occurring physiology, then the death will be certified by the Coroner as due to natural causes. That cause will be stated and documents will be issued to enable the death to be registered and the funeral to go ahead.

Such deaths are classified as death from natural causes. Yet there can be nothing less natural than to lose an active young person in this way. Frequently there have been no apparent symptoms. Usually the young person will have died whilst engaged in some perfectly normal activity of eating, drinking, taking exercise or in their sleep.

The death of a child or young adult is so totally out of order with the sequence of life that it can have devastating consequences within the family.

With sudden death syndrome or sudden cardiac death not only has there been no preparation for such a death as in terminal illness, nor is the death accidental when there is an obvious and direct link between an occurrence and the tragic consequences. This can lead to those closest to the one that has died blaming themselves for overlooking possible symptoms. Dealing with their terrible loss is then compounded by feelings of guilt. See Living with loss

Sharing the way you feel about what has happened is very important. It is not always easy to do this with others that are suffering directly from the same loss.   CRY has a network of individuals who have suffered a tragedy, many of whom have done a counselling skills course and are available to support others through their loss.