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Muted Triumph for Shaken Baby Syndrome Sceptics

(Posted on 03/11/16)

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Muted Triumph for Shaken Baby Syndrome Sceptics

Dr Waney Squier has successfully appealed against a medical tribunal’s ruling that she had misled courts hearing cases of ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ (SBS).

Mr Justice Mitting cleared Dr Squier of dishonesty and said there were significant flaws in the tribunal's findings against her, but he maintained that her actions did amount to serious professional misconduct.

The pathologist has been unable to give evidence in court since being struck off the medical register in March. The General Medical Council (GMC) panel had called evidence that she had given in cases “dishonest” and “deliberately misleading”.

Although now reinstated on the medical register and able to practise once again, Dr Squier will not be allowed to give expert evidence in court for three years.

Fellow SBS sceptics Dr Irene Scheimberg and Dr Marta Cohen have also stopped giving evidence, as have supporters of the diagnosis including Professors Tony Risdon and Colin Smith, both of whom gave evidence against Dr Squier at her panel.

The original complaint against Squier was brought by DI Colin Welsh of the Metropolitan Police who objected to Defence Experts causing the Crown Prosecution Service to lose “child abuse” cases.

Prominent international researchers have come out in support of Squier. Steven Gabaeff, a practitioner of emergency medicine in the US for thirty-five years and a diplomat emeritus of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, said: “The impact of her research in blunting the false prosecution of innocent caregivers is beyond value or measurement to those impacted.”

Marvin Miller, professor of paediatrics at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, told the tribunal in March: “This is clearly a witch hunt against a physician who has done society a great service by levelling the playing field for parents and caregivers who face allegations of child abuse when their infant presents with unexplained brain injury. Regarding her professionalism, she has unimpeachable integrity.”

Carrie Sperling, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said: “Squier has provided a scientific perspective in an area fraught with emotion, a lack of objectivity and a demand for easy answers.”

In the Guardian, Human Rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said: “Shaken baby syndrome is almost unique among medical diagnoses in that it is not focused on treating the child. If an infant has bleeding on the brain (a subdural hematoma), the doctor wants to relieve the pressure – it is of little relevance how the infant came about the injury. SBS is, then, a “diagnosis” of a crime rather than an illness, and when a brain surgeon comes into the courtroom and “diagnoses” guilt, the defendant, mostly a parent, is likely to go to prison – or worse.

“The impact on medical science will be immense, because what other doctor will be prepared to question the prosecution theory if it means the end of a career? This is a very dark day for science, as it is for justice.”

In a letter to the Guardian, a group of twenty-five prominent lawyers, pathologists, paediatricians and neurologists argued that: “The case of Dr Squier is indicative of a troubling pattern where the authorities inflict harsh penalties on those who fail to toe the establishment line.”

Senior barrister Michael Birnbaum QC wrote a robust, critical forensic analysis of the judgment that brought Dr Squier’s internationally distinguished career to an end [see: www.insidejusticeuk.com/articles/dr-waney-squier-struck-off-medical-register/139].

Louise Shorter, founder of Inside Justice, was called to give evidence for Dr Squier and was considered a “credible” witness by the tribunal panel after her description of Dr Squier’s honesty and integrity.

Dr Squier told BBC’s Newsnight that many people were frightened to give evidence in court following the GMC’s decision to strike her off the medical register, “which leaves us in the shameful position where our courts cannot get Defence experts to assist in these cases where parents are being accused of abusing their infants.”

She called for a thorough independent review of the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), which she considers to have no validity at all, and no place in courts.

“We need a public inquiry.”