Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shaken baby or not?

A report in the Brockton Enterprise Increases in shaken baby cases concerns officials tells of various officials' speculation about the rise in reported cases of suspected shaken babies.

There are experts in the field of evidence-based medicine who suggest that there are other explanations for many of the injuries that the shaken baby prevention advocates attribute solely to vigorous shaking. The pediatric neurologist and pediatric radiographer who spoke at a seminar I attended sponsored by the (Massachusetts) Juvenile Bar Association two years ago delineated the genesis of Shaken Baby Syndrome. They pointed out the flaws in the "research" of the founder of the Shaken Baby movement and how the advocates ignored contrary evidence in a series of cases.

The Shaken Baby Advocates insisted that the injuries and signs apparent in various infants and toddlers could not have been caused by anything other than being vigorously in the manner they propose. Then the evidence-based medicine teams would scientifically prove that the injuries could have been caused by a car accident as described by the accused parents in one case, by falling down the stairs with the baby as described by the accused parents in another case and even by falling out of a high chair as described by the accused parents in yet another.

The cases often rely on the assertion that certain retinal damage patterns can only be caused by a baby being vigorously shaken but the evidence-based presenters showed that the claim was based on believing an assumption that did not look at a wide enough collection of retinal damage patients. When retinal images across other medical specialties besides just child abuse pediatrics are viewed, there are many other causes including some as benign as sneezing that cause the retinal images that shaken baby prosecutors so often rely upon.

The bad economy may be causing a lot of hardship but it is not necessarily the cause of an increase in reported shaken baby cases. An increase in reported shaken baby cases may not even be caused by an increase in shaken babies. When DCF investigators or police are investigating an injured baby case they may well have a predilection to think shaken baby and be dealing with a system of "experts" too quick to disbelieve the parents and assume inflicted injury.

If you are the subject of a 51A (report of child abuse or neglect), are accused of having shaken your baby or are subjected to any other investigation by police or the Department of Children and Families (DCF, formerly the Department of Social Services, DSS) be sure to contact an attorney with experience in this field BEFORE your interviews, BEFORE letting them into your home.

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