Doctors writing a medical journal editorial called on Friday for a rethink of shaken-baby syndrome after researchers cast doubt on one of the symptoms used to identify it, Reuters news service reports.
The syndrome results from violently shaking an infant and is recognized by bleeding around the brain and from the eye, along with brain damage. It made international headlines in 1997 when British nanny Louise Woodward was convicted of killing a baby boy in Massachusetts by shaking him violently.
Now British and American scientists said there are serious questions about the syndrome and how it is diagnosed.
“We need to reconsider the diagnostic criteria, if not the existence, of shaken-baby syndrome,” said John Plunkett, of the Regina Medical Center in Hasting, Minnesota, and JF Geddes, a retired pediatric pathologist.
“If the concept of shaken-baby syndrome is scientifically uncertain, we have a duty to re-examine the validity of other beliefs in the field of infant injury,” they added in a British Medical Journal editorial.
Concerns about the validity of the syndrome arose after Patrick Lantz of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina found little medical evidence to show that bleeding from the eye results only from physical abuse.
They searched for medical evidence after a 14-month-old baby suffered head and eye injuries after a television fell on him at his home.
Despite the father explaining it was an accident, the three-year old brother of the baby was taken into custody because the injuries suffered by the baby were thought to have been caused by severe shaking.