Shaken Baby Syndrome In The NYT Magazine

Nanny Louise Woodward after her 1998 conviction in a famous shaken-baby case
Nanny Louise Woodward after her 1998 conviction in a famous shaken-baby case

This magazine article is much more balanced than the Op-Ed contribution by law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer that the Times ran last September, saying that experts were questioning the scientific basis of the syndrome. That piece raised an outpouring of objections from medical and legal experts here on CommonHealth. But this new article will surely still prompt some powerful reactions. I particularly liked this summing-up of why the issue is so fraught:

Normally, of course, this is how science progresses: One researcher comes up with a hypothesis, which others question and test. But shaken-baby cases are haunted by the enormous repercussions of getting it wrong — the conviction of innocent adults, on the one hand, and on the other, the danger to children of missing serious abuse.

And just a narcissistic footnote — Emily Bazelon mentions CommonHealth here:

Last September, the fight among the doctors broke out in public on the Web, after Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former prosecutor and a law professor at DePaul, wrote a New York Times Op-Ed warning of wrongful convictions and calling on the National Academy of Sciences to referee the shaken- baby-syndrome dispute. On the Web site CommonHealth, about 20 doctors commented, mostly to express outrage. One of them was Block. He wrote that Tuerkheimer had “been beguiled by a group of physicians who are using the courtroom to distort science, facts and reality.” And he denounced her for “furthering the cause of the so-called innocence project.”

This program aired on February 2, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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