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Results of New Survey on Shaken Baby Syndrome Could Have Child Custody Implications

According to coverage of a new survey and study done on the validity of shaken baby syndrome, a large majority of physicians view the diagnosis as valid. This newly highlighted medical consensus indicating that shaking an infant or small child can result in life-threatening injuries, coma, or death contradicts previous notions that the medical community is divided on the issue, and this could ultimately have an effect on child custody cases.

In fact, according to the lead author on the study—who is both a doctor and lawyer—claims of controversy have had a chilling effect on child protection hearings and the prosecution of caretakers guilty of abusing children. One need only open up the news section to see that questionability surrounding the diagnosis as to whether it was valid or not has had its impacts on child custody and welfare. This study is the first of its kind to provide the empirical evidence that many physicians have called for over the years, as medical concepts like shaken baby syndrome must first be generally accepted in the medical community before medical expert testimony, in general, is admitted in the courts to help establish the cause of a child’s injuries.

A Valid Diagnosis

Specifically, researchers analyzed responses from more than 600 physicians who inspected injured children at the 10 leading children’s hospitals in the U.S. The results indicated that close to 90 percent of these physicians believe that shaken baby syndrome is a valid diagnosis. In sum, the data indicates that shaking an infant or young child is a “dangerous form of abuse.”

Skepticism Contributes To One Child’s Death

Unfortunately, these findings come too late for the child who was the subject of an internationally-publicized case, Ellie Butler. After her father had been convicted of assaulting Ellie when she was a baby, his conviction was reversed due to a technicality related to the “problematic diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.” After being raised by her grandparents for six years, due to this technicality, a judge then sent Ellie to live with her father. Within months, he had subjected her to such a violent attack that she was killed. While medical evidence concerning Ellie’s initial injuries as a baby were provided to the court, some commented that it still failed to establish the explanation necessary for her injuries; an explanation that could have prevented her from returning to the parent who caused her injuries as an infant. In addition, the many agencies and authorities who could have intervened to save her life did not, and the system ultimately failed her.

Child Custody Attorneys on Your Side

Child custody is a life-altering issue that clearly has very serious repercussions. If a parent or other family member has a history of violence or abuse of children, that must be taken into account in a child custody case.

If you need any assistance with issues related to establishing custody or visitation with a child, or other issues related to family law justice, contact us today so that we can help you. The attorneys at the office of Sandra Bonfiglio in Fort Lauderdale are eager to assist you with your case.

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