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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

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VPR News: Autopsy Study Provides New Theory On Shaken Baby Syndrome

Findings from a series of autopsies could alter the debate over the controversial diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.

A new study suggests that babies can die by violent shaking alone — but not in the way doctors have previously thought.

A team of researchers who conducted autopsies on 35 babies in Miami, Dallas and Calgary, Alberta, report that when children die after being violently shaken, they die of neck injuries and not from brain trauma.

The findings were just published in Academic Forensic Pathology, the journal of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

Shaken baby syndrome is commonly invoked to prosecute child abuse. But growing numbers of medical experts — particularly forensic pathologists — have raised doubts about the diagnosis.

Skeptics question whether it's possible to shake a baby so violently that the child dies from brain injury but without other visible marks or trauma to the neck and spine.

The confusion over the science sometimes results in the conviction of innocent parents and prison. A series of investigative reports called Post Mortem: Child Cases, this week by NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica told the stories of the wrongly convicted and looked at the case of Ernie Lopez, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence in Texas.

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