Sunday, December 07, 2008

MindHacks has a post on the Discover article that was disappointing...

Here's my comment in response:

There are two "controversies" about SBS:

- does SBS exist at all, and

- are the injuries described as SBS in a particular case actually the result of an inflicted injury (a subspecies of which is whether shaking alone can cause such injuries).

In any particular case, making the diagnosis of a brain injury and inferences about its cause may not be easy, especially if the child survives. Expertise outside the ordinary and diligent investigation are necessary to understand cause in each case.

But the fact that there are apparent failures of inquiry in individual cases (I say apparent because the failure of the government to sustain its burden of proof in a criminal conviction is not a test of the scientific proof underlying the hypothesis) is not proof of the "myth" that the title of this article suggests: that the majority of head injuries are not inflicted.

Mark Dias is a pediatric neurosurgeon who has treated children with inflicted head injuries. Shortly after his first son was born, he realized how frustration can lead to anger. He began an education project at Buffalo area hospitals to educate new parents about the vulnerability of young children to head injuries and how they can cope with frustration.

Once they had the opportunity to learn about how they could help protect their child, inflicted head injuries in the Buffalo area dropped by nearly 50%.

To me, this is compelling evidence that inflicted injuries DO happen: sometimes from ignorance, sometime from indifference, and sometimes because caregivers just aren't prepared.

Obviously, it is necessary to distinguish the consequences of an inflicted head injury from other possible causes. That can be very difficult to do in some cases, but clearly it should be done to ensure that the rights of the innocent are protected and the guilty are punished.

But if I were writing a story about the validity of a diagnosis that leads to criminal prosecution when diagnosed, I wouldn't rely upon an analysis of the merits by individuals who apparently appear only as defense witnesses.

PS. I'd also think MindHacks would find this more interesting as another example of the human tendency to find "controversies" about all sorts of things despite the facts: the link between vaccines and autism, the Moon landing hoax, the use of controlled detonations to cause the collapse of the WTC towers, not to mention old favorites such as FDR's complicity in Pearl Harbor, Communists at the State Department who were responsible for the fall of China and the Zionist chronicles.

To have survival value, the brain's disposition to recognize patterns doesn't have to be accurate: it just needs to benefit more than it burdens.
Comment previewed at December 7, 2008 05:22 PM

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