Tunnel vision isn’t what’s best for the child

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I write regarding your front-page story on May 8, “A good day for justice.” It raises some serious questions about how the child protection system is functioning.

Defence lawyer Erin Breen stated of her client Colin Matchim, “this was a miscarriage of justice and I think the entry of the acquittal … is an acknowledgement that his conviction had been wrongful.” 

I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, there appears to be a worrying trend in the last several years for the pediatric establishment and Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS) to falsely accuse caregivers of abuse by shaking. Fortunately, the courts are out in front of this issue and recognize the medical establishment has not gotten their act together in terms of providing clear evidence-based diagnoses.

Instead, in such cases there have been too many medical misdiagnoses. Too often, when a pediatrician cannot determine the cause of a child’s symptoms upon presentation, the default diagnosis is that the child was shaken.  For whatever reason, a cognitive bias or wilful blindness sets in and clear evidence contained within the child’s medical file from birth is ignored. CYFS, for its part, also fails to carry out due diligence in its investigations, which arguably are far from being thorough and objective.

Pediatricians need to acknowledge the peer-reviewed medical research in the past decade that has debunked the theory of shaken baby, that symptoms that used to be “pathognomic” (only possible cause of shaken baby) have now been recognized worldwide and can be explained by a variety of causes including prematurity, difficult birth, skull growth disorders and malformations, blood disorders, raised intracranial pressure, just to name a few.

When a father or mother has been falsely accused and the court finally returns custody after two years of suffering, anguish, bankruptcy and families torn asunder, how is this in the interest of the child?

No one is arguing that children should not be protected. But that’s not an excuse to be unprofessional and irresponsible.

The child protection system needs to do better.


Paul Thompson

St. John’s

Organizations: Child Youth and Family Services

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    May 15, 2014 - 21:17

    This is the extreme end of what we statisticians refer to as Type 2 error - the medical profession generally has a strong bias toward a false positive. This is not a conspiracy between satanic judges, possessed lawyers and Witchdoctors. It is just erring on the side of caution. Maybe that is a part of classic Satanism and demonic possesion as well. I don't know. Better to play it safe, and assume they are all in a coven, until proven not. Give me anyone you consider sane, and I can return a diagnosed insane person to you, not based on a diagnosis of what’s going on inside the person, or a biased ‘evil doctor’, but based on the environment, and context in which they are assessed. Type 2 error. Throw in Gregory Bateson’s work on double bind theory, and you can see how easy it is to create a crazy baby shaker from scratch these days. Unlike getting told you have cancer of the balls after a botched biopsy, there is no relief in being told "Oh, so sorry, you didn't shake your baby after all! You can go home now private citizen. Our bad." The personal, social and legal stigma is sticky in the shaken baby case, and once the ball is rolling, professional reputations depend on it defeating all inertia. No one will point at you five years down the road, and whisper, "Luh, dats da feller they though had testicular cancer, but didn't after all.....must be SOMEthing to it though...look, he just scratched his crotch…" No doctor will be afraid to recant on this original positive diagnosis - they would be happy to give you the good news, evil witchdoctor, or benign prescript-doctor. Like "Illegalizing" cellphones while driving - why not just judge these infractions as imprudent driving (parenting) - the FOSTER CHILD BUSINESS benefits from all this gong show, like the DISTRACTED DRIVING BUSINESS which, as the intrepid letter writer points out, does little to protect the children affected. So, what we have is a secret cult dedicated to flushing out ‘baby shakers’, with our only defence being our politicians who only kiss babies with $1000 cheques (to win the right to vigorously shake-up their future environ), and the Judges who were probably there to pass out cigars to Rosemary's Baby. I don’t know. The devil is in the details I suppose. No bys, there is no real Satan, and no shaking baby syndrome. That doesn’t mean Joe-blow out there, not playing with a full deck won’t hurt his child in frustration – it happens. It doesn’t mean masked black mass-inspired orgies are not consummated in the city – it could be happening. This is not EVIL, just socially, financially, sexually frustrated people. Frustrated insane people, once interviewed and diagnosed. I don’t take my child very far in the car because imprudent, plugged-in driving has been sanctioned by the law as a ‘thing’ Can these ‘maybe satanic’ judges, these intelligent & wise all-seeing-owl-serpent-promethHE-MEN, appreciate the difference in a young driver getting a cellphone ticket (normalizes cellphone driving) as opposed to a charge of imprudent driving (normalizes normal, care of and controlled driving)? Are we normalizing baby shaking? I congratulate the letter writer once again, and hope the judiciary is as shaken and stirred by it as I was. If they do not comment, well, we can maybe be fairly certain that they are all, indeed, perhaps, in league, with the Devil himself!