Is ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ A Medical Diagnosis? Or A False Accusation? (Pt. 3)

November 10, 2017 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
close up of a hospitalized baby with an oxygen tube
Shaking a baby doesn’t always produce the same results, which means that SBS isn’t all that easy to diagnose.


Now that we’ve spent some time looking at how flawed Shaken Baby Syndrome case history is, we’d like to look at what a number of experts are now saying with regards to SBS. And these are not just any experts. These are neurosurgeons, chief medical examiners, and forensic pathologists who once worked hard to put parents behind bars. Amazingly, they’ve since had a serious change of heart!


Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist who previously worked for the D.C. medical examiner’s office, is one such expert. With more than 30 years of experience investigating deaths of all kinds, Arden says that he’s certain that actual SBS cases are actually quite rare. However, he didn’t always feel that way.


Arden was a sought-after witness for the prosecution, dedicated in his belief that Shaken Baby Syndrome was a cancer in society, and that any sign of it must be rooted out and penalized. But as Arden has explained, many people in the medical field sit in court and make absolute and unequivocal statements, as if there is no other possibility. When, as Arden puts it, “we all now know that there is!”


Like a growing number of other doctors and scientists, Arden has serious doubts about the science behind Shaken Baby Syndrome. Why? Because while bleeding on the brain, bleeding behind the eyes, and brain swelling do all point to violent head trauma, they also point to a host of other things.


Genetic disorders, birth-related traumas, rare medical conditions, even accidents could all account for that fateful triad of symptoms.


There are many reasons why a child might exhibit certain symptoms that look like signs of SBS, but they don’t immediately point to an abusive caregiver. And according to Arden, that shouldn’t be the first place we look for an answer.


Don’t misunderstand. We’re not saying it doesn’t happen. It does. And when it does, the results are heartbreaking! But a growing group of medical experts are pointing to the fact that shaking a baby doesn’t conclusively produce these exact results every time. And so these specific symptoms should not be the keystone for SBS accusations.


Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern University recently published a book on the subject of SBS false accusations entitled Flawed Convictions: ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ and the Inertia of Injustice. In it she discusses how the “diagnostic triad”, once instantly equated with guilt, are now known to be insufficient evidence of abuse. However the legal system, as she points out, has failed to adapt to the changing face of science.


With each passing year, the truth gains momentum. More and more people are realizing that the picture is much broader than they’d been led to believe. Which is good news! But like any entrenched idea in a society, regardless of how harmful it may be, it’ll take time to root it out.


Join us next time as we wrap up this series on Shaken Baby Syndrome, and talk about what the future holds for the fast growing changes in science, and for falsely accused parents everywhere. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of shaking or otherwise harming a child in Michigan, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. WE have decades of successful experience, and we can help you too.