Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) / Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)
Over four decades ago, Dr. Norman Guthkelch first hypothesized that brain bleeding in infants could be caused by violent shaking. Over time, doctors evolved this idea into the theory that a “triad” of symptoms in infants (brain bleeding, brain swelling, and retinal hemorrhaging) was proof of violent shaking. For decades doctors have used the triad to convict thousands of parents and caretakers. Today, Dr. Guthkelch is adamant that his hypothesis is being misused, sending innocent people to jail.
Increased Research Reveals Flaws:
Without out a doubt, shaking an infant is dangerous. The question is whether you can diagnose shaking using the triad alone. New research has revealed many other causes for the triad: short falls, birth trauma, genetic and metabolic disorders, stroke, infection, etc. Research indicates that violently shaking an infant will often cause more symptoms than just the triad such as trauma to the neck. To distance themselves from the growing controversy surrounding SBS, doctors and prosecutors have switched to the phrase “Abusive Head Trauma.”
Burns Case a Prime Example of These Flaws:
Most hospitals and doctors admit that all possible causes for the triad should be considered before diagnosing SBS. But this is not being done in many SBS cases, and Naomi Burns’ case is a prime example. Naomi had many issues known to mimic SBS, however, these issues were dismissed:
- Traumatic birth involving multiple vacuum extractions leading to suspected brain bleeding.
- Increasing head size since birth suggesting chronic swelling of the brain.
- Enlarged space between her brain and skull which can lead to an increased susceptibility to brain bleeding.
- Evidence of increased intracranial (brain) pressure that can cause retinal hemorrhage (eye bleeding).
- Excess platelets in her blood which may have worsened her retinal hemorrhages.
It is critical that victims of abuse be protected and abusers be brought to justice. However, convicting innocent people based on flawed science and unjust legal tactics tears families apart and is itself abusive.