Coroner’s warning over cannabis use and co-sleeping after baby death

Kiya Hunte was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, but could not be saved
Kiya Hunte was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, but could not be saved

A two-week old baby girl’s risk of sudden death had been increased dramatically because the parents had been smoking cannabis before taking her into their bed, an inquest has heard.

Kiya Hunte was only 14 days old when she fell asleep at her west Belfast home while being breast-fed in the early hours of May 9, 2014.

Her mother Shana Hunte had been smoking cannabis around 12.30am and eventually fell asleep on her left side between 2am and 2.30am, facing Kiya, cradling the baby with her arm.

Ms Hunte awoke at 5am to find Kiya cool to the touch and unresponsive. The baby also had blood visible around her nose and there was a patch of blood on the sheet below her head.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson heard how a paramedic was unable to resuscitate Kiya despite arriving at the Glasvey Rise property within minutes of receiving the emergency call.

The inquest also heard evidence from a paediatric specialist on duty at the Royal Victoria Hospital on the morning of the incident.

Dr Clare Murray said Kiya was “pale and cold” when she arrived at the emergency department around 5.25am.

“She had no pulse and was not breathing,” she said.

Dr Murray and medical staff administered four cycles of adrenalin, as well as trying other means of resuscitation, over a 20-minute period.

“At 0550hrs it was clear that the resuscitation had been unsuccessful. I declared life extinct at 0553,” Dr Murray said.

Paediatric pathologist Dr Claire Thornton said Kiya weighed her birth weight of 6lb 3oz after 14 days.

Although the baby was otherwise healthy, Dr Thornton said: “These findings suggest a failure to thrive.”

Dr Thornton said there was “no evidence of injuries,” but she had “not identified a natural cause for this baby’s death”.

She said it was possible that Kiya had suffered “over-laying” by her mother making breathing impossible.

“We believe this baby’s death is best classed as unascertained,” Dr Thornton added.

However, the pathologist said that parents smoking cannabis and then co-sleeping with a baby leads to “an inestimably high risk of SUDI (Sudden unexpected death in infancy).”

The coroner thanked the Kiya’s mother for coming to the inquest and told Ms Hunte she had her deepest sympathy.

“I think it is important you have come here today. There are very valuable lessons to be learned”.

Ms Anderson added: “Hopefully if your story is heard, another family will be spared a similar tragedy.”