Judge Claims Shaken Baby Syndrome Is Junk Science
An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 babies die each year from abusive head trauma, which is also referred to as shaken baby syndrome. This type of head trauma causes a serious brain injury that may result in lifelong disabilities or death. When a parent or caregiver faces charges of causing this type of injury to a child, it’s important to work with a Morristown criminal defense lawyer who can present sound scientific evidence and expert testimony to the judge and jury.
What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Pediatricians and the medical community define shaken baby syndrome, or abusive head trauma, as violent shaking that causes an irreversible brain injury to a baby. It may be mild, which causes minor symptoms like crying or fussing, or it may be so severe that it causes the death of the baby. The shaking causes the brain to violently impact the skull, which causes the death of brain cells, swelling, and bleeding. The force of the shaking may also damage the baby’s spinal cord.
How Does Shaken Baby Syndrome Occur
Doctors and child abuse investigators believe that shaken baby syndrome happens when a caregiver or parent is frustrated by the baby. Perhaps the baby won’t stop crying, or maybe the baby won’t eat, vomits, or won’t sleep. In most cases, a buildup of frustration causes the caregiver to lose control and shake the baby so hard that they don’t realize they’re causing harm. Medical experts argue that it only takes a few seconds of violent shaking to cause permanent brain damage or death in an infant.
Legal Dispute of Shaken Baby Syndrome as a Real Condition
In 2017, a New Jersey father was charged with the crimes of aggravated assault and endangering the life of a child. The 11-month-old baby boy was born prematurely and had neurological problems. An indictment against the father claimed that he caused permanent brain damage to his child. The judge in the case argued that the 1971 establishment of abusive head trauma as a medical diagnosis was founded on junk science. The judge disallowed expert testimony related to abusive head trauma.
Shaken Baby Syndrome Is an Assumption, Not a Diagnosis
According to the judge and the pediatric neurosurgeon who came up with the term “shaken baby syndrome,” the condition is an assumption rather than a diagnosis. The syndrome requires that three symptoms be present. Those symptoms include neurological impairment and bleeding in the eyes and brain. The symptoms do not have to occur simultaneously in order for a baby to receive that diagnosis. There is no scientific consensus that shaken baby syndrome is a legitimate diagnosis because each of those symptoms can be caused by many other injuries and conditions.
Prosecution of Shaken Baby Syndrome
Health care providers are required by law to report cases of suspected child abuse to law enforcement. Law enforcement takes these crimes seriously. Investigators may look for a pattern of injuries and may interview other members of the household. They may also arrest the caregiver and keep them behind bars until an indictment is returned.
Exoneration of Convicted Caregivers
Since 1989, at least 26 caregivers found guilty of aggravated assault or other crimes related to shaken baby syndrome have been exonerated. Some of those caregivers served more than a decade behind bars. The conviction, even if overturned, follows the caregiver for the rest of their life. Even being charged with aggravated assault or causing great bodily harm to a child may cause a caregiver or parent to lose their job, lose custody of other children, experience the loss of their marriage, and develop severe anxiety or depression.
If you’re facing criminal charges pertaining to this type of an issue, protect your rights by scheduling a consultation with a Morristown criminal defense lawyer. To make an appointment with the Law Office of Gregg Wisotsky, fill out our online contact form, or call (973) 878-0161 Monday through Friday or (908) 229-9714 on weekends and after hours.