Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). There are distinct sides in the medical community, either for or against the phrase SBS. Physicians in the pediatric field are slowly shifting sides with the influx of new research. In 2009 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed the more accurate phrase, Abusive Head Truama (AHT). AHT clearly identifies head trauma injuries. Both accidental and non accidental are included. However, many Internet sites discussing AHT are not excluding SBS. Most refer to the phrases as one in the same thing?
Babies are shaken by people, either parents, relatives or paid caregivers. Why? Most attribute it to a breakdown caused by intolerance for insistent crying and fussiness. It could be drugs, alcohol, depression, stress or lessened mental capacity. Whatever the reason, it is a reality. But, is it the only explanation for unexplained brain injuries?
Is loyalty to the phrase SBS declining or is the popularity of questioning its validity increasing?
1) In 1987 Research using dummies disproved that shaking could cause SBS injuries
2) In 1998 research by a forensic Pathologist contradicted the conventional belief that a child with traumatic head injuries would be immediately symptomatic.
3) In the last ten years other causes of the three key symptoms associated with SBS have been researched.
4) This past year at age 95 Dr. Guthkelch himself who originally coined the phrase SBS, denounced how it has been used out of context from his original findings.
5) Many cases from the past are being re-examined by innocence projects like the “Wisconsin Innocence Project” They have succeeded in opening cases that had ignored current medical science. Audrey Edmond’s case brought forth credible experts like Dr. Plunkett a Minnesota Pathologist and Dr. Barnes a leading radiologist from Stanford. Dr. Barnes was the expert for the prosecution in the Woodward case (the British nanny) in the 90’s. He has since regretted his testimony.
6) A Texas bill called SB 344, (“junk science”) statute grants relief in cases where new scientific evidence is available, or where scientific evidence was used to convict a person which has been shown to be false, misleading or inaccurately applied.
Why is Shaken Baby Syndrome still associated primarily with child abuse? Is it possible that there could be a judicial influence? Prosecutors, Abuse experts and Dept of Human Services employees have relied on medical personnel’s diagnosis of SBS to confirm abuse for years. Finding out that they were wrong in the past would imply they have been responsible for the destruction of thousands of families.
False accusations of abuse are linked by unexplained injuries. Once an infant presents with any injuries that can not be explained, mandatory reporters contact the Dept of Human Services or police authorities and an investigation begins. If that investigation relies on evidence using old SBS research, families are devastated. A case in 2007 concerning what has become “Amanda’s Story” reflects on the controversy. False accusations by over zealous Child Protective Service workers relied heavily on medical records summarizing SBS as the cause of injuries in that case.
Shaken Baby is iconic. My 5 week old grandson presented with fractures unrelated to SBS in 2011. Yet prosecutors, DHS and an abuse expert were fixated on a mental image of an innocent baby being shaken. My grandson was diagnosed with neonatal rickets. Irregardless the system was unrelenting in its efforts to refute current medical research. Much the same way new research is challenged in courtrooms where unexplained head injuries are on trial.
Can non medical influences diminish updated research and affect true justice? Innocent families are riding on the correct diagnosis.