Shaken Baby Syndrome

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the contentious 1997 prosecution of British Au Pair, Louise Woodward for the supposed shaking death of Matthew Eappen, the infant she was babysitting in Newton, Massachusetts. 3DCentre  is currently taking part in an in-depth study to challenge the entire premise of what has become known as Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Last updated: 10th january 2022

Dr Waney Squier is a paediatric neuropathologist who is working with 3DCentre (3DC) apprentices Astrid Parrett and Emily Girvan-Dutton to review some 100 UK cases, beginning with a desk-based study of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) related materials in the public domain. Analysis demonstrates that a small cadre of “experts” are still touting variations on the SBS theme, and few medical practitioners are willing to stand up in court for the defence to present a vigorous case against it. The result of this is dire:

That’s where 3DC comes in. Our apprentice lawyers are working to assimilate the materials for a preliminary report on the current use of the SBS hypothesis in the UK, which will feed into a public education campaign. We have already started looking at test cases where the materials we develop, along with the testimony of international experts, will be used to erode and, one hopes, eventually eliminate the bogus diagnosis of SBS.

“The fallout for families is just appalling and people are going to prison but even worse, babies are taken away from loving parents on a very regular basis in this country [UK]” Listen to an interview with Dr Squier here

The Objective

 

That’s where 3DC comes in. Our apprentice lawyers are working to assimilate the materials for a preliminary report on the current use of the SBS hypothesis in the UK, which will feed into a public education campaign. We have already started looking at test cases where the materials we develop, along with the testimony of international experts, will be used to erode and, one hopes, eventually eliminate the bogus diagnosis of SBS.

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

 

There are two diagnoses that stand out in the medical world: Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and Battered Child Syndrome (BCS): no doctor treats SBS or BCS. These are only diagnoses of criminal abuse offences, and their intervention in the justice system is fraught with danger.

The shaken baby hypothesis was first proposed by British paediatric neurosurgeon Dr Norman Guthkelch in the early 1970s.  He proposed that a triad of observed injuries in a baby might be explained by shaking.  The three elements of the ‘triad’ are a subdural haematoma (SDH), a cerebral oedema (CO) and retinal haemorrhages (RH).

This theory rapidly became adopted as fact without scientific proof.  Yet the logic seemed rather obviously flawed: if an infant has bleeding under the membrane surrounding the brain called the dura (SDH), then the brain inevitably swells (CO) in order to contain it. If the pressure in the brain increases, then one almost inexorable effect is haemorrhaging in the eyes (RH).  In other words they are closely interrelated and if an infant sustains an SDH, which is very common in infants, the other two are likely to follow.  Read more here 

Making the Case against SBS

 

When Clive first defended a SBS case, that of Sabrina Butler, during which the State of Mississippi sought to impose the death penalty, he first became concerned that the whole edifice of SBS was built on scientific quicksand.  That same year, when there were only a couple of doctors challenging the SBS hypothesis in the US, Clive began publishing on the subject.

Experiments on laboratory primates proved that shaking could not cause the triad.  A quarter century later, the situation has changed dramatically, with many doctors in the USA now willing to testify that the triad does not indicate shaking.  In 2011, shortly before he died, Dr Guthkelch himself disavowed the notion that this was science, and expressed horror that prosecutors were using his theory to send people to prison.

“In a case of measles, if you get the diagnosis wrong, in seven days’ time it really doesn’t matter because it’s cleared up anyhow” Guthkelch said. If you get the diagnosis of fatal shaken baby syndrome wrong, potentially someone’s life will be terminated”

Read here

In the US, SBS cases are a major focus of some prosecutors’ Conviction Integrity Units.  Problems still exist but the US joins various countries from Scandinavia to the Antipodes where the SBS diagnosis is on its deathbed.

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