Shaking a baby is clearly wrong and unsafe. But doctors need to use thorough, quality science when diagnosing SBS, since these symptoms are often caused by non-abusive medical conditions. Assumptions have no place in science, especially when innocent people’s lives are being destroyed.
In 2003, when Victoria Baumer decided to give up her baby for adoption, it was her sister Julie who offered to take him in. The baby’s birth was difficult, and he spent his first week of life in intensive care. At six weeks old, when Philipp was unable to keep food down, Julie took him to the emergency room. Doctors saw a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Julie was charged and convicted of child abuse. She was sentenced to 10-15 years. After four years in prison, the University of Michigan Law School’s Innocence Clinic was able to overturn her conviction. The Clinic called in experts from across the country and they agreed that the injuries, while tragic, were certainly not caused by abuse. Julie was found not guilty and officially exonerated on October 15, 2010.
An infant in Rosanna’s daycare suffered a seizure and was taken to the hospital. Doctors found bleeding in the head and behind the eyes, which they considered to be proof of SBS. They testified that the injury must have happened while the child was in the daycare, and Rosanna was charged with child abuse. The doctors ignored the fact that much of the blood was weeks to months old and that the child’s head had been growing rapidly since birth. This is a sign of a condition that is known to be associated with bleeding in the head. She was found not guilty, but her daycare was closed by the state. Between legal costs and loss of income, Rosanna declared bankruptcy.
Anthony’s 9-week old daughter suffered a seizure while in the care of her grandparents and she was taken to the hospital. A brain scan showed that she had bleeding on the brain and a small amount of bleeding in the back of her eyes. However, the scan also revealed that the baby had suffered a stroke while still in the womb. This left the left side of her brain shrunken to about one third its normal size, a condition which makes the brain susceptible to bleeding. Ignoring this, the doctor testified that these were signs of SBS. Anthony was convicted of first degree child abuse. His case is on appeal.