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Diagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Aisling Brady McCarthy listens during a status hearing at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass., Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Aisling Brady McCarthy listens during a status hearing at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass., Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (Charles Krupa/AP)
This article is more than 7 years old.

The surprising decision by prosecutors to drop criminal charges against an Irish nanny accused of shaking a baby to death more than two years ago is raising some questions about the diagnosis itself.

Monday, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Aisling Brady McCarthy after the state medical examiner office said it could no longer stand by its ruling that the infant's death was a homicide. Brady McCarthy's lawyers say she spent two and a half years in prison for a crime that she did not commit, and that did not occur.

It is the second time in less than a year that the medical examiner's office changed its position on a shaken-baby case, and it follows a number of similar cases around the country in which murder convictions have been overturned.


Robert Sege, pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect as well as vice president at Health Resources in Action, a public health policy organization. He tweets @Kiddrbob.


WBUR: With Murder Charges Dropped, Nanny In Cambridge Baby Death Case Hopes To Head Home To Ireland

  • "The medical examiner said Sabir died of complications of a brain hemorrhage of unknown cause, and not the result of blunt force trauma to the head, and amended the manner of death from “homicide” to "undetermined.'"

NPR: Doctors Devise A Better Way To Diagnose Shaken Baby Syndrome

  • "Though they are in the minority — disputing the consensus of child abuse experts, pediatricians and an extensive evidence base — they have gained traction in the media and in courtrooms by suggesting that shaking a child cannot cause these injuries. Instead, they argue that undiagnosed medical conditions, falls or other accidents are the cause."

The Washington Post: A Disputed Diagnosis Imprisons Parents

  • "In the United States, 16 convictions have been overturned since 2001, including three last year. In Illinois, a federal judge who recently freed a mother of two after nearly a decade in prison called Shaken Baby Syndrome 'more an article of faith than a proposition of science.'"

American Academy Of Pediatrics: Understanding Abusive Head Trauma In Infants And Children

  • "There is no legitimate medical debate among the majority of practicing physicians as to the existence or validity of AHT/SBS. The only real debate and controversy appear to be in the legal system and the media."

This segment aired on September 1, 2015.


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