Sunday, February 1, 2009

ANOTHER BRITISH PATHOLOGIST CHALLENGES "SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME;" SUE ARMSTRONG INTERVIEWS DR. WANEY SQUIER;

"WE ALL BELIEVE THAT BABIES ARE INJURED BY PARENTS AND CARERS, BUT SOME ARE SO PASSIONATE IN THEIR BELIEF IN CHILD ABUSE THAT THEY WON'T BROOK ANY QUESTIONING. I'M REGARDED AS A BIT OF A MAVERICK, BECAUSE I KEEP SAYING, "I NEED TO SEE SOME EVIDENCE, BEFORE I ACCEPT IT."

DR. WANEY SQUIER;
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The following extracts of an interview with Dr. Waney Squier are extracted from, "A Matter of Life and Death: Conversations with Pathologists, by Sue Armstrong."

Dr. Waney Squier is described as a Consultant paediatric neuropathologist, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, who challenged conventional thinking on shaken baby syndrome

How common is shaken baby syndrome?

I probably see a new case every week. Just this morning two policemen brought me a case and I said to them, "I don't think it's shaking; there's no evidence. The baby doesn't have a broken neck; there are no grip marks. This baby may well have been impacted - either dropped, or smacked across the head or thrown against something." But they kept saying, "Yes, well if the father hadn't done it ..." , and they were making this shaking gesture. They just can't get away from the idea that "this is what families do to babies".

As the pathologist, aren't you in a powerful position to say: "This is not shaking?"

The detail is so important - in some of these cases we find a huge subdural haemorrhage during postmortem. Well, that goes with shaken baby syndrome. But then you go back to the scan that was taken the day the baby was admitted to hospital, soon after the collapse, and there's no subdural. A scan two days later and there's a bit of bleeding; then you come to postmortem and there's a lot of bleeding. The hawks will grab this and say: "Subdural haemorrhage - it must have been shaken."

But then I ask: "What about the scans?" What's happened, I think, is that the blood is coming from somewhere else and it's oozing; the baby's sick and it's on a ventilator; the liver's not working; blood clotting is not working; this blood is collecting over a period of days.

Do they agree with you that there are bigger questions?

I don't know. I'm saying: "I think this baby's probably had impact injury on separate occasions." But that's not very good for the police; they want it to be shaken, and they want the injury to have happened "at 12 o'clock in the morning, November 3, 2003", or whatever, because there was only one person with the baby then, and it makes it really easy for them to identify a perpetrator.

Is this the first time you've found yourself challenging the orthodoxy?

We're quiet people who go away and work in the backroom and send out the diagnoses. But there is a lot to be gained if we can prevent miscarriages of justice. So I'm willing to be as controversial as it takes - if I've got the evidence.

Building up the evidence, of course, means retaining tissues from autopsy to study and to archive. How good are you at broaching this issue with families?

Well, I'm actually quite impressed with myself! I thought it would be terrifying. But going through the whole Alder Hey thing - having very angry, grieving parents storming up to the hospital saying, "You stole my baby's brain; how could you do it, you people?", and having had a few that I've sat down with who've gone away saying, "Oh, now we understand. You learnt something; his little life wasn't in vain" - that really gave me confidence to believe that sometimes I was getting it right.

To order a copy of "A Matter of Life and Death: Conversations with Pathologists, by Sue Armstrong" for £11.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop;

Harold Levy...hlevy15@gmail.com;