Critics say the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is used too freely and that sometimes, innocent people go to prison, reports NPR. Norman Guthkelch, the pediatric neurosurgeon is credited with first observing the condition, worries that the diagnosis is too often applied by medical examiners and doctors without considering other possible causes for a child’s death or injury.
NPR, PBS Frontline, and ProPublica studied nearly two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada where people were convicted of killing children but later acquitted or had charges dropped. Common patterns emerged over questionable autopsies and testimony, as well as disputes over medical evidence, such as the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome estimates 1,200 to 1,400 cases a year of severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse. The FBI reports about 500 homicides a year of children under the age of 5, from all causes.