Health Impact News Editor Comments

Once again we see the terrible injustice of the false science behind “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS) and how it destroys families, often imprisoning innocent parents and caregivers. More and more courts and judges are overturning past convictions as the “science” behind SBS crumbles.

In this story recently published in Australia, Lorraine Harris was convicted of killing her baby, and then had her second child taken away from her after birth because of the false conviction. She served 17 months of her sentence before being paroled, and then fought to clear her name. She was “successful” in clearing her name, but lost everything. Her second son was adopted out and she has had no contact with him.

Ironically, Dr. Waney Squier testified in both her conviction, and in her acquittal. That’s because Dr. Waney Squier, a world renowned neuropathologist, has become one of the world’s most outspoken critics on the lack of science behind SBS. She has sacrificed her career to tell the world the truth, and to stand for those wrongly accused.

Is Shaken Baby Syndrome A Myth or Murder?

by Cat Rodie
Marie Claire


At 2.30am on December 4, 1998, Lorraine Harris’ Yorkshire home was quiet and still. Clambering out of bed, the 28-year old Australian-born mother of three made her way to her infant son’s cot. Four-month-old Patrick had been grizzly that day and the family GP suspected he was getting a cold. Harris pulled back Patrick’s cosy knitted blankets, expecting to find her treasured boy sound asleep. But when she saw him, she immediately knew something was terribly wrong.

Panic stricken and crying hysterically, Harris called an ambulance. Patrick was rushed to hospital under blue lights and the wail of sirens. But there was nothing anyone could do to revive him. Wracked with grief, Harris sobbed over Patrick’s tiny, lifeless body in a sterile hospital room. Outside the door, police were waiting.

Post mortem results showed that Patrick’s brain was swollen and that he had bleeding on his brain and behind his eyes – symptoms that are widely believed to be indicative of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Harris was arrested and charged with manslaughter.

“I felt like I was in a haze. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, I was just staring into space. I’d lost the son I’d so desperately wanted – and I was being accused of killing him. I just couldn’t believe it,” she tells Marie Claire.

Her trial hinged on complex medical evidence. The prosecution included a report from respected paediatric neuropathologist, Dr Waney Squier, who confirmed Patrick appeared to have been a victim of shaking. Squier based her assessment on a SBS diagnostic tool that has been used for the last 40 years.

It was a devastating outcome for Harris, yet one that could have potentially been very different thanks to new research that has emerged concerning the diagnosis of SBS.

In February, the respected international medical journal Acta Paediatrica published a paper on a new Swedish report that critiques the existing scientific evidence behind SBS. Professor Neils Lynöe, a medical ethicist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, led the two-year study. He concluded that there is no convincing evidence to show that the triad is definitive evidence of shaking.

“You can’t use these studies to say that whenever you see these changes in the infant brain [the triad], the infant has been shaken – it’s not possible according to current knowledge,” he explains.

Squier, who has studied infant brains for more than 20 years, is now one of a small contingent of medical experts around the globe who dispute the way SBS is diagnosed. She believes that the triad isn’t a tell-tale sign of shaking and could be caused by a number of other factors, such as genetic disorders, blood clotting in the surface of the brain (venous thrombosis) or even low falls, such as accidentally rolling off a bed or change table. The physiology of the tiny newborn brain makes it more likely to bleed, she says, and astonishingly, many healthy babies are born with at least two manifestations of the triad.

“In newborn babies, 46 to 50 per cent have bleeding on surface of the brain and between 30 to 60 per cent of newborns have bleeding behind the eyes. It’s because they’re little and they’re suffering from pressure [from coming down the birth canal during labour and delivery]. Blood can’t flow out of a baby’s brain very easily when they’re being born,” she explains.

Squier also notes that in order for shaking to cause the triad, an adult would have to use considerable force. She believes this force would leave visible evidence of trauma – the baby would have neck and spinal damage, bruising, and the tissues of the brain would be torn and damaged.

“People harm children – it happens. But I have a problem accepting that they can inflict serious brain damage without leaving any marks,” she says.

Lorraine Harris served 17 months of her sentence, before being released on parole. Although she had her freedom, her life was unrecognisable: no partner, a dead son and another adopted out to new parents who wouldn’t allow any contact. When her case came up for appeal in 2005, Harris wanted to go beyond freedom: she wanted to clear her name. She was dumbfounded to find Squier had switched sides and was willing to testify for her defence. Harris’ conviction was overturned, but it was a hollow victory.

Read the full story at Marie Claire.

Comment on this article at

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See Also:

Swedish Health Agency Rejects “Science” of Shaken Baby Syndrome

University of Michigan Law School Awarded $250K to Learn How to Defend Shaken Baby Syndrome Cases

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Opens the Legal Door to Retry All Shaken Baby Syndrome Convictions

Child Abuse Pediatricians: An “Ethically Bankrupt” Profession that Destroys Families