News outlets love to sensationalize stories of child abuse and other scandals befalling the otherwise seemingly perfect lives of suspects. The contrast between the appearance of a loving home and the gruesome details of a crime are a winning combination to garner views. One piece of evidence commonly cited in cases involving child abuse, though, is particularly controversial.
Shaken baby syndrome is a form of brain injury that results — as the name suggests — from violently shaking an infant. It is a diagnosis that often accompanies child abuse charges leveraged against parents or caretakers. According to Fox News, however, many critics are emerging to question the diagnosis.
Other medical issues may cause symptoms
The greatest issue with the use of shaken baby syndrome as evidence of abuse is the fact that many other factors can create symptoms similar to those indicating SBS. If SBS were proof of abuse, the cause of its symptoms would only be shaking an infant, but this is simply not the case. Trauma at birth or prior brain injuries can also produce effects that mirror those of SBS.
There is often a lack of additional evidence
One of the most striking characteristics of SBS cases is the shock of the abuse allegations. There may be no prior history of abuse in the household or physical evidence indicating the use of force. Even in the absence of additional evidence, however, the prosecution may present the symptoms of SBS as sufficient proof that violent abuse took place against an infant.
Jury may overreact to purported child abuse
People have a natural inclination to protect those who are vulnerable, and when presented with a child who possibly suffered harmed, juries and courts may be eager to place blame prematurely. As a result, the prosecution may invoke SBS as justification for a conviction even when there is little to no evidence that violence took place.