International Conference to Address the Real Science Behind Shaken Baby Syndrome Diagnosis

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Conference will show there is no controversy surrounding the existence of shaken baby syndrome

Babies die every day from injuries suffered after being violently shaken. Mainstream scientists and medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) and American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) agree that shaking a baby is extremely dangerous. At the Eleventh International Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma being held September 12-14 in Atlanta, Georgia, the leading international experts on SBS will address these forms of child abuse and recent controversies.

“The accusation that shaking a baby does not cause harm frequently comes up in court” said Marilyn Barr, Executive Director of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, the organization responsible for organizing this conference. “Arguments that these extensive injuries could be caused by something other than shaking, such as a vitamin D deficiency or a fall from a couch, are often how defense witnesses try to explain what happened to a baby who now has serious, permanent brain injuries or is dead.”

“Clinically, we do know that shaking can cause these injuries,” says Dr. Robert Block, Chief Child Abuse Examiner for the state of Oklahoma, past chair of the AAP’s committee on child abuse and neglect and AAP President-Elect. “Opponents point to some biomechanical studies that attempt to explain how shaking does not exert enough force upon an infant’s brain to cause significant injury, but these studies don’t confirm what clinicians see over and over again. The error is not with the clinicians, it’s with the artificial baby-like models used in these studies.”

Dr. Lucy Rorke-Adams, one of the most experienced forensic pediatric neuropathologists in the world, agrees. “It’s a small, vocal group of individuals who are offering alternative explanations to explain one or another symptom of shaken baby syndrome. To date no credible evidence exists to support their claims.”

While a minority group clamors for a controversy around SBS, established medical organizations, government agencies and the majority of medical professionals continue to work toward increasing awareness about SBS and instituting SBS prevention programs.

“How other ideas that attempt to explain SBS injuries get represented as fact is not a mystery,” says Ross E. Cheit, JD, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University. “When criminal charges are involved, there is always someone who is going to deny the charges. Unfortunately, there has been a long and regrettable history of minimizing and denying various forms of child abuse in America.”

The AAP, NAME, and AAO have published positions statements recognizing SBS and each describe their discipline’s role in its diagnosis and response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published an SBS prevention guide for health departments and community organizations and identifies SBS as a “public health issue” on the CDC website. The Department of Defense (DoD) authorized an SBS prevention initiative in 2007 and continues to provide SBS prevention education throughout the world. Several states, including New York, Texas and Ohio, have passed legislation that require SBS training for child care providers and/or distribution of SBS prevention materials to parents of new babies. This year the United States Senate passed a resolution declaring the third week of April 2010 as “National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week.”

Medical associations, government organizations, entire states, and the United States Senate work to bring awareness and prevention measures to this form of abusive head trauma because they recognize that SBS does exist and needs to be prevented.

Dr. Cheit, Dr. Block and Dr. Rorke-Adams are featured among the 94 speakers to present at the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome’s Eleventh International Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma to be held from September 12-14 in Atlanta, Georgia. Presenters include some of the most well-recognized prevention advocates, scientists, medical and legal professionals in the field of child abuse. The science behind SBS will be described from the viewpoints of multiple disciplines to bring clarity to which claims are factual and which are not.

Editor’s Note: For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Brian Lopez at 801-510-5575 or blopez@dontshake.org. To access the conference program, please go to http://www.dontshake.org/pdf/Program_Atlanta2010.pdf.

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