It’s been a while since we’ve posted about SBS. It’s a complex issue that is just not coverable in a single post. So in case you’d like a “refresher,” or if you’re new to the topic, there are links to previous WCB posts on SBS at the end of this post.
There is new science emerging all the time in this field – science that largely disputes the classic and entrenched one-size-fits-all “triad” symptom diagnosis, along with the current views of “cause & effect” regarding triad symptoms. There are, unfortunately, people who do shake or otherwise abuse their babies, and these babies may very well present with one or more of the triad symptoms, so they cannot be dismissed without further understanding. However, the established medical profession (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) and the justice system (particularly prosecutors) have embraced the “triad can only mean abuse” theory of cause and effect; and they have so far refused – cogently, adamantly, and combatively – to consider giving it up. They have turned a blind eye to much of the new understandings being created by true science. What this means is that an alarming number of innocent people continue to get swept up in the “triad dragnet,” and sent to prison.
In my view, the medical establishment has been not just tone deaf and brain dead about accepting new findings in the area; they have put up the deflector shields and aggressively resist it. The people who hold sway in pediatric medicine seem to have a religiously fanatic attachment to this 40 year old theory. And the prosecutors are more than happy to go along with the medical establishment, because strict adherence to the triad theory makes for easy convictions – even though they may be wrongful. There are lots and lots of doctors ready to testify that if triad symptoms are present, it can only be abuse. Coupled with this is the fact that the prosecution can always afford to put more experts on the stand than the defense; thereby swaying clueless juries, because the side with more experts “must be right,” regardless of the veracity of their testimony.
Let me quote Dr. Waney Squier, a noted UK pathologist, who is one of the prominent SBS truth-seekers (writing for the journal Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, Jan..8, 2014), “The critical issue is why, after more than 40 years, shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma (SBS/AHT) remains controversial. The real controversy is over whether shaking or abuse may reliably be inferred from specific findings, classically, subdural and retinal hemorrhage with encephalopathy (the triad).” And, “For four decades, the medical profession and the courts have largely accepted the SBS/AHT (triad) hypothesis as fact. Today, we know that the hypothesis lacks a reliable evidentiary basis …..“
The bright spots of true progress on SBS seem to come at an agonizingly and glacially slow pace — but here is one. Reneé Bailey was convicted 13 years ago of shaking 2½ year old Brittney Sheets to death. She has been in prison ever since. Recently, NY State Supreme Court Justice James Piampianon granted an evidentiary hearing in the case to consider the new scientific findings regarding SBS. This is a huge deal. It means that at least some segment of the justice system is willing to look past the prevailing medical dogma. Read the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle story here.
And here is another recent article, this from USA Today, questioning the traditional “science” of SBS.
Science and truth will ultimately prevail, but to paraphrase Nobel physics laureate Max Planck, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” It’s going to take time to work our way out of this modern day version of the medical dark ages, but it will happen. As William Shakespeare penned in The Merchant of Venice, “….. at length, truth will out.” In the meantime, I shudder to think of all the innocent people that will suffer tragic injustice until we get there.
Previous WCB SBS Posts:
The SBS Wars, Hang Bin Li SBS Case, Shaken Baby Science Doubts Grow, SBS Expert Testimony – This HAS to Get Fixed, SBS Accusations – A Modern Day Witch Hunt?, SBS – Politics and “Religion” vs. New Science, Dismissed Case Raises Questions on SBS Diagnosis, Witnessed Baby Shakings, The Latest in the Medical Debate Over SBS, Baby Sitters and SBS, Medical “Folklore” Yields Yet Another Wrongful SBS Conviction, SBS – Where Are We? – A Reality Check, SBS: Perspectives on a Controversial Diagnosis, Are There Geographic “Hotspots” for SBS?