Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shaken baby syndrome: Dr. Norman Guthkelch, 'Originator' of shaken baby Syndrome, warns of miscarriages of Justice: "About his original paper Dr Guthkelch has said, “But I truly regretted ever having written it, because people are in jail on the basis of what they claim is my paper, when in fact it is nothing like it.” (Must, Must Read by Dr. Lynne Wrennall. HL);

PUBLISHER'S VIEW: It is most unusual  for a scientist to discover that  something developed as a hypothesis  has been transformed by others into an incontrovertible scientific fact which has dire social consequences - and for that scientist to  public in a bid to undo the damage. For that reason I  recommend the following article  about Dr. Norman Guthkelch, by Dr. Lynne Wrennall,  to our readers.

ARTICLE: "'Originator' of shaken baby syndrome warns of miscarriages of justice," by Dr. Lynne Wrennall,  Executive Director of the International Public Health Research Group and the Managing Editor of Argument & Critique.

SUB-HEADING:  "“I am frankly quite disturbed that what I intended as a friendly suggestion for avoiding injury to children has become an excuse for imprisoning innocent parents.” Dr. Norman Guthkelch."

GIST: "Britain’s first Paediatric Neurosurgeon, Dr Norman Guthkelch wrote the seminal paper, ‘Infantile Subdural Haematoma and Its Relationship to Whiplash Injury’ published in the British Medical Journal in 1971, from which the concept of Shaken Baby Syndrome [SBS] originated. He worked for many decades in the British National Health Service and then moved to the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital in the US in the 1970’s. Now in his 90’s, he has become deeply concerned over how the concept is being used. The science behind SBS he says is “greatly premature and sufficiently invalid.” SBS he says, is merely an hypothesis. “There is nothing wrong in advancing such hypotheses; this is how medicine and science progress. It is wrong, however, to fail to advise parents and courts when these are simply hypotheses, not proven medical or scientific facts, or to attack those who point out problems with these hypotheses or who advance alternatives.” Of the original article he says, if he had known, that it would be used as “the whip with which innocent mothers would be beaten”, he would not have written it. However he does not believe that his thinking has changed. Rather, it is others who have misused his ideas in developing the concept of SBS. He objects to the concept of Shaken Baby Syndrome because a cause for the symptoms is inbuilt into the name, pre-empting the enquiry that ought to determine the cause of the symptoms. He states that it is highly unlikely that there is any symptom that would have only one single cause.  He became aware of the uses to which his work was being put when he was approached by Law Professor Carrie Sperling from the Arizona Justice Project and asked to review the case of a young father who had been convicted of murdering his baby son, based on allegations of shaking. Examining the medical records of baby Steven Witt, he concluded that the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome was inappropriate. The child had a pre-existing medical condition that could fully explain why he died. Dr Guthkelch went on to proclaim, ‘I wouldn’t hang a cat on the evidence of shaking'. Dr Guthkelch is concerned that aspects of the Shaken Baby Syndrome concept are “open to serious doubt.” Dr Guthkelch’s concerns together with the evidence of six other experts, led to Drayton Witt’s exoneration in 2012. He also reported to Professor Sperling that he had never intended that the presence of subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages, with or without encephalopathy, should prove that a child had been shaken, only that shaking was one possible cause of the bleeding. After the Drayton Witt case, Professor Sperling went on to make Dr Guthkelch aware of the extent to which parents were being wrongly accused of killing their babies through shaking. Other cases were reviewed in which it was similarly found that the child had a pre-existing medical condition that provided the cause of death. Expert Neuropathologist Waney Squier has estimated that of the approximately 250 SBS cases that go to court each year in the UK, half or even more have been wrongly convicted. In the US, at least 19 cases relying solely on SBS have been overturned in recent years. “I realized that what I had described was being made into a completely different disease,” Dr Guthkelch, said. “We’ve assumed the cause of shaken-baby syndrome on the basis of a few cases.” The sample size of his original observations was too small to support the generalised conclusions that are being made in SBS allegations. The stakes are particularly high as Dr Guthkelch has pointed out, “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. If you get the diagnosis of fatal shaken baby syndrome wrong, potentially someone's life will be terminated” About his original paper Dr Guthkelch has said, “But I truly regretted ever having written it, because people are in jail on the basis of what they claim is my paper, when in fact it is nothing like it.”   Together with 34 other international experts, Dr Guthkelch has now signed an open letter expressing deep concern over the links between Shaken Baby claims and Miscarriages of Justice. The experts from a wide range of fields including medicine, child protection, psychology, epidemiology, biomechanics, physics, engineering, research, medical journalism, law, social work and criminology have signed the open letter to draw attention to the problem. They state that the construct of what is commonly known as Shaken Baby Syndrome [SBS] is not backed by solid science.  It has variously morphed into Shaken Impact Injury, and other similar variants, but it has never been scientifically validated. SBS and its variants have been conceptualised in several ways. Generally speaking SBS involves the ‘Triad’ of symptoms of retinal haemorrhages, subdural haemorrhages and ischaemic encephalopathy being interpreted as signs of child abuse. Parents and carers in many countries have been falsely accused of injuring or killing a child and face allegations of child abuse, manslaughter or murder when the claims of SBS have been made. Many such accused parents and carers are given long prison sentences and their children are permanently removed from their families. In some jurisdictions, they can even be sentenced to death. The letter states that it can be shown in many such instances that the evidence of the prosecution experts alleging death or serious injury from SBS is demonstrably flawed. The scientific basis for the assertion that these injuries are the consequence of deliberately inflicted violent shaking is highly contentious. Biomechanical evidence has shown that shaking a baby without contacting a surface would only produce the triad of injuries in association with other injuries to the neck and spinal column that are typically not found in alleged SBS cases. Over the past decade it has been found that many of the accused parents/caregivers do not fit the conventional profile of those who commit child abuse and the pattern of injuries has been found to result from alternative histories than shaking.  The scientific and academic literature shows that the construct of SBS is open to significant critique. SBS is lacking in scientifically-conducted validation and forensic rigour. To date, the scientific research which has been conducted, casts considerable doubt on the SBS construct. Moreover, while this diagnosis continues to be used, babies are denied the investigations they need to establish the correct cause, treatment and prevention of recurrence, of their symptoms and signs. The experts who signed the letter also point out that the SBS hypothesis does not have the undivided support of the relevant professional community, an essential consideration in the assessment of expert testimony. Despite the lack of substance, claims that the baby has been shaken can result in draconian consequences in the Criminal and Family courts. Those found in either type of court to have abused children will be unlikely ever again to be allowed to care for their own or anyone else’s children. The letter states that “Many courts are making insufficiently informed and consequentially, frequently wrong decisions with dire and chronic consequences for parties who may well have done nothing wrong.” The signatories to the letter call for sensible debate about SBS in the courts, which they claim in many cases is currently being suppressed. “I want to do what I can to straighten this out before I die,” Dr Guthkelch says, “even though I don’t suppose I’ll live to see the end of it.” The letter, together with the list of signatures, is here: Wrennall, L. Bache, B. Pragnell, C. et al 2015 Open Letter on Shaken Baby Syndrome and Courts: A False and Flawed Premise, Argument & Critique, Received Jan. Published Feb."

The entire letter  can be found at: 


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following these issues.
I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:
I look forward to hearing from readers at:

Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog