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Flawed Convictions"Shaken Baby Syndrome" and the Inertia of Injustice$
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Deborah Tuerkheimer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199913633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199913633.001.0001

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(p.17) 2 Complications
Flawed Convictions

Deborah Tuerkheimer

Oxford University Press

In the mid-1990s, a methodological turn to evidence-based medicine revealed that the research underlying SBS was fundamentally flawed. Greater scrutiny of the claims made on behalf of the triad unraveled the diagnosis in important respects. This chapter describes how and why the evidentiary foundations of classical SBS eroded, leaving in its wake a number of significant unknowns. What is now clear is that the triad can be caused by a number of natural disease processes, referred to as the “mimics” of abuse. Short falls can also result in the triad. As well, scientists acknowledge the existence of “lucid intervals”—a period of time during which a seemingly well baby can experience the neurological symptoms associated with SBS. In recognition of this evolution in scientific knowledge, the American Academy of Pediatrics has renamed SBS: it is now “Abusive Head Trauma.” When it comes to proving guilt in criminal court, the new diagnosis cannot do the work of the old SBS. This casts in doubt the category of convictions resting on expert claims that have been discredited.

Keywords:   evidence-based medicine, lucid interval, short fall, mimics of abuse, triad, wrongful convictions, Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)

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