Many allegations of serious child abuse can include a diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome (SBS), or abusive head trauma (AHT). SBS is often diagnosed on the basis of three key symptoms known as the “triad”: retinal hemorrhages, brain bleeding (hematomas), and brain swelling. Many times, the presence of these three symptoms (or even just one or two of them), can lead to allegations of abuse by individual last left alone with the child. Further, a diagnosis of SBS allows prosecutors to bring child abuse charges even if there are no outward signs of abuse, such as bruising or fractures. Any accusation of Shaken Baby Syndrome must be taken seriously from the moment the allegation is first made.
Allegations of child abuse based upon a diagnosis of SBS are becoming increasingly scrutinized by medical professionals, legal advocates, and judges due to possible misdiagnosis and questionable scientific evidence. This is attributable to doctors and medical examiners applying a diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome without considering other possible causes for a child’s injury or death, such as birth injury, blood clotting disorders, and metabolic disorders, among other possible causes. Additionally, the long-held assumption that the child’s most recent caregiver is the actual perpetrator of abuse is now being challenged because there can be a lag of hours or even days between the time of injury and when the child becomes unresponsive.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly found that a diagnosis of SBS in the case against Jennifer Pel Prete was unreliable, and noted that the new evidence presented in the case “arguably suggests that a claim of shaken baby syndrome is more an article of faith than a proposition of science.”
Child abuse allegations can be the basis of criminal charges, a petition to terminate parental rights, or both. In many of our cases, we deal with law enforcement and Child Protective Services. Michigan law mandates that Child Protective Services and the police work together when allegations of SBS are made. It is critical to contact an attorney who is experienced in handling serious child abuse allegations, both in the criminal courts and with respect to Child Protective Services. The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith, P.C. is highly experienced in defending allegations of child abuse in these arenas. If you are facing child abuse allegations contact Smith Blythe, PC today to schedule a consultation.