Shaken Baby Syndrome was once unchallenged in the medical community. But lately it has been under greater scrutiny- especially with more parents and caretakers being tried for murder with an SBS diagnosis though they maintain their innocence. The scrutiny has brought to light some uncomfortable truths for SBS proponents.
For example, the research behind SBS is not based on documented and witnessed accounts of shaking deaths of real human infants, but rather on brutal and inhumane research conducted on adult baboons. The researcher who carried out these experiments found that if rammed with excessive force, the baboons developed a subdural hematoma- the part of a “triad” of symptoms (subdural and retinal hemorrhage and brain swelling) which form the linchpin in many SBS convictions. Most SBS experts frequently testify that the excessive shaking is the only way that this triad could be found in a human infant. The next step in the “research” of Shaken Baby Syndrome was to assume that if such excessive force caused baboons to develop a subdural hematoma, then shaking would be enough to cause a subrudal hematoma in a human baby.
Of course, this is actually not the case at all since certain vitamin deficiencies and encephalopathy are known to cause the triad of SBS symptoms. And more and more fequently experts who believe Shaken Baby Syndrome to be a diagnosis built on a sandy foundation are testifying as much in court casses and talking about the problems with the SBS diagnosis. Other research has called SBS into question. An experiment with dummies that mimicked the size and weight of human infants with sensors attached throughout showed that shaking would not cause the type of acceleration which would produce a subdural hematoma in a human infant. Other inconsistiencies with SBS are that experts admit that bruises on the baby’s arms and torso that would normally be expected to be seen in a baby subjected to excessive force are mostly absent from SBS cases.
Frequently people accused of shaking a baby to death or brain damage have no history of violent behavior. In one cae highlight in the New York Times, the daycare worker convicted of shaking a two month old baby had cared for her own children and several others including an autistic boy and a girl with one arm without any history of violent behavior. The other daycare workers described her as a very patient and gentle person. Many cases of SBS ask us to assume that people without any history of abusive, violent or maltreatment behavior and have frequently raised their own children without any abuse suddenly shake a baby to death or brain damage out of the blue. This doesn’t mean that other injuries would not result from a shaking incident, but simply that a subdural hematoma is not necessarily the smoking gun for SBS that experts have portrayed to parents, the media and judges and juries.
SBS proponents frequently point out that the diagnosis still holds up because they have confessions from parents and caretakers as their evidence for SBS. However, these confessions frequently come from parents and caretakers who have admitted to gently shaking a baby they have just found lying unconscious in a crib to rouse the child. Others have been told point blank by law enforcement and medical experts that the police and doctors know the accused is guilty and that he or she will no chance at acquittal in a trial since doctors and scientists will testify that there is no other way the baby could have died than at the hands of the accused. Sometimes these people are offrerd a plea bargain anfd told it is the only way they will escape a lifetime in prison. So with SBS what we have is a diagnosis built upon speculative research and bolstered by confessions of people under duress. It doesn’t take a Ph D to see that we’re looking at a fragile theory here.
So where do vaccines come into play with SBS? You’re probably thinking i’m going to tell you that vaccines cause the desth and brain damage of babies said to suffer from SBS. Ah, the ravings of a paranoid, ignorant mother who hates science. How easy it would be to dismiss this idea if it were me who came up with it. But I can’t take credit for that theory. Experts who have researched SBS and testify for defendants in SBS cases state that vaccine reactions can cause the subdural hematoma and other features associated with SBS. You could accuse them of simply saying things for financial gain, but they frequently testify at trials for reduced fees or waive their fees entirely for families with financial need. And this isn’t coming from whale.to, it’s coming from Discover Magazine, a respected science magazine that is very pro-vaccine. (A while ago they ran an article about why people still question vaccines despite the “proven” safety and efficacy.)
What I can do is walk you through some symptoms and supporting research. The most likely culprit is a condition called encephalopathy- brain damage that can be caused by many things including DTaP and DTP vaccines. Autoimmune encephalitis is another possibility as well. Despite assertions from some in the medical community that encephalopathy is not caused by vaccines, the US government’s Health Resources and Services Administration recognizes it as a reaction to vaccines- specifically containing pertussis antigens such as DTap and DTP.
- Altered mental state (which can present as inattentiveness, poor judgement, lack of coordination)
- muscle twitching
- myalgia (muscle pain)
- Cheyne-Stokes respiration (altered breathing patterns seen in cases of coma and brain damage)
- Weakness/ numbness in parts of the body
- slow speech, slurred speech or inability to speak
- loss of balance
- involuntary movements
- distorted vision
- cognitve impairment
- memory disturbance
- decreased level of consciousness (can even become catatonic or comatose)
- seizures (either obvious or showing up on an EEG scan)
- partial or com[lete loss of appetite for prolonged periods
- food and drink tasting inedible or producing nausea
- excessive eating without feeling satiated
- inability to sleep
- loss of inhibition
- rapid, pressured or invioluntary speech
- visual or auidtory hallucinations or delirium
- paranoid thoughts
- severe anxiety
For a point of comparison, here are the symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome from the National Center For Shaken Baby Syndrome:
- Lethargy / decreased muscle tone
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased appetite, poor feeding or vomiting for no apparent reason
- Grab-type bruises on arms or chest are rare
- No smiling or vocalization
- Poor sucking or swallowing
- Rigidity or posturing
- Difficulty breathing
- Head or forehead appears larger than usual or soft-spot on head appears to be bulging
- Inability to lift head
- Inability of eyes to focus or track movement or unequal size of pupils
Hhhhhmmmm… Very similar. Also interesting to note is that the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome says that “Purple Crying” (prolonged periods of uncontrollable screaming which they reassure parents are completely normal) are most common at ages 2 months and 4 months. What a huge coincidence since those are also the ages babies receive their first doses of DTaP and prolonged periods of uncontrolled screaming are also a symptom of encephalitis in babies, at least that’s what the Mayo Clinic says.
So though I am not a Ph d or an MD, I still have a scientific mind and think it’s worthwhile to apply Ockhams Razor here. With most cases where someone is convicted on doctors’ testimonies of SBS, we are being asked to believe that injuries seen in adult baboons and assumed to happen to babies when shaken were inflicted by a person with no prior history of violence. The sole basis for this conviction is an “expert” testimony that there is simply no other explanation. We are also asked to dismiss the idea that encephalopathy, which is knwn to cause the same symptoms and can be caused by a vaccine reaction could be responsible. A vaccine reaction is logically the far more simple and likely explanation, but people continue to cling to Shaken Baby Syndrome. Why?
The stakes are incredibly high for proponents of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Yes there are financial stakes for pharmaceutical companies, that’s obvious. Vaccines are a huge profit center. They’re a product that is a marketers dream- every man, woman, child and animal is supposed to need them several times over a lifetime- even a few times a year- or certain death will supposedly follow. And new variations can be rolled out to an eager population excited to get the newest “life saving” product their doctors have told them about. If Shaken Baby Syndrome is dismissed as a legitimate diagnosis, it opens up the door for more attention on vaccine reactions, potentially provoking more caution and restraint from both doctors and parents in the administration of vaccines. A perfect product then becomes something that not everyone can r should get, and the profit center becomes more moderate… Like with most other products.
But the emotional stakes are arguably the highest and the strongest factor that keeps SBS proponents defending their shaky ground. For some parents, their identity has become wrapped up in being advocates for SBS awareness. The srticle from the New York Post describes a family who have a blog up detailing their experience with a baby who was diagnosed as having suffered injuries from SBS. They even wore t-shirts to their caregiver’s trial with pictures of their son at the hospital saying “This is what happens when you shake a baby.” Their story and vilification of their babysitter is certainly emotional and their grief and anger is real, but when you consider that the story they tell is based not any eyewitness account or confession but on the testimony of SBS proponents. The babysitter has she never shook or harmed their baby in any way but found him unconscious and tried to rouse him, their story becomes more unsettling.
Other parents have gotten involved with Shaken Baby Syndrome promotional materials such as the “Baby Elijah” video and Purple Crying materials. It’s completely understandable becauses it’s a way to give meaning to an unfathomable tragedy. If the SBS was actually the result of a vaccine reaction. Instead of being the victim, you’re the parent who unknowingly contributed to your child’s death or brain damage. Not a happy thought.
Medical experts have a similar problem. If Shaken Baby Syndrome is discredited, they are no longer heroes who put abusers in jail, but educated people who have built their career on pseudoscience and possibly jailed innocent parents and daycare workers. Also not a happy thought. Despite so many good intentions, shaken baby syndrome as left in is wake the shattered lives of many innocent parents and caregivers.
Of course there is an alternative. If you can’t beat them- join them. That’s what one of the SBS experts testifying for the prosecution in the Louise Woodward case did. (See the NYT article for full details). As the defense attorneys and their medical experts dismantled his arguments, he saw that Shaken Baby Syndrome was built on a shaky foundation. Today, he testifies for people who are accused of causing Shaken Baby Syndrome to save them from unjust convictions. Parents whose babies were actually injured by a vaccine could become advocates for vaccine injury awareness. (This doesn’t mean they have to become “anti vax”, but just that they advocate for greater awareness and research into a legitimate and known but under informed problem.) Change is in the air for Shaken Baby Syndrome and with it vaccines as well.