Stephen Gately Trust

Raising awareness of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS)
Founded by Michelle Gately following the tragic sudden loss of her brother Stephen
in October 2009 from an undiagnosed heart condition
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About SADS


You may be reading this website because a relative of yours - perhaps a member of your own family - has died suddenly and unexpectedly. You may still be asking why it happened, and how it could have happened to someone who perhaps seemed so healthy. Or maybe your doctor has suggested that you should have some tests to find out if you have inherited the same medical condition as the person who has died.

This website outlines the possible causes of sudden arrhythmic death. It concentrates on the medical conditions responsible for a sudden unexpected death where a definite cause cannot be found, even after a postmortem.

This is called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, or SADS.

The website:

  • describes what happens after someone has died suddenly and unexpectedly
  • explains how the heart works and how it can cause sudden death
  • explains what causes SADS and why it is important that the close blood relatives of the person who has died should have a medical examination and tests to find out if they have inherited the same condition
  • offers advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle if you are found to have one of the conditions that can sometimes lead to sudden death.

What is the difference between Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS)

and Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)?

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD)

Sudden cardiac death is a dramatic and/or spontaneous death that is thought to be (and usually is) caused by a heart condition.

Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS)

In about 1 in every 20 cases of sudden cardiac death, no definite cause of death can be found, even after the heart has been examined by an expert cardiac pathologist. This is then called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. In the past it has also been called Sudden Adult Death Syndrome or Sudden Death Syndrome but, because it affects children too, the term Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome is now used. It is thought that cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS) may be partly due to the same causes responsible for SADS.

What happens after an unexpected sudden death in a young person

After an unexpected sudden death it is usual that the coroner of the area where the death has happened will ask for a post-mortem to be performed. This involves the body being examined by a pathologist. Small samples of tissue from organs including the heart are often taken and examined under a microscope. Usually the pathologist can easily detect any abnormality like significant coronary artery disease (furring of the arteries) or pulmonary embolus (a clot on the lung). The coroner will take into account the circumstances of the death and, if necessary, will do tests for signs of any medications or drugs in the body. If it is difficult to assess the heart or to detect any abnormality in it, the pathologist may ask for the help of an expert cardiac pathologist (one who specialises in the heart) to determine the cause of death.

Information courtesy of

The Stephen Gately Trust is a company limited by guarantee not having a share capital, registered in Dublin, Ireland 
with a registered company Number 524626. Registered Charity number CHY20660
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