Sunday, October 02, 2011

Resources: 2011 SBS/AHT Conference NYC

The Queens District Attorney's Office sponsored the 2011 Conference on AHT/SBS, as it's now denominated in medical and legal circles, last month, and it was an interesting conference indeed.

There was several excellent presentations on medical and legal issues, including Mark Dias and Carole Jenney.

There was also an excellent overview and analysis of the literature cited in support of the shaken baby "controversy" by Chris Greeley, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas. Link

One of the best things about this presentation was that, in the best tradition of science, it actually explored the strength of the scientific literature that is cited in support of the contention that there is a "controversy" in the medical community about the scientific basis of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Summed up, his basic teaching point is that the "evidence" of controversy is drawn from scientific papers that are paraphrased by advocates: to know whether the cited science supports the contention, and, if so, how strongly, "you got to read the paper."

Examined objectively, it seems pretty clear that the claims exceed the evidence.

The Conference materials are available at the DA's site for a limited time and can be downloaded. Link

While I applaud the organizers for setting a session to discuss the "controversy", and Drs. Squier and Uscinski for their appearance to discuss it, I felt the formality of the panel made the discussion rather tepid. It certainly was less spirited that, say, Jerry Springer.

Unfortunately, the precaution of formal rules proved to be necessary: towards the end of the panel discussion, Uscinki read a letter from a person who thanked Uscinski for the testimony at his trial that helped get him acquitted of charges, then announced that the person was in the audience and wanted to address the Conference, presumably to say that not all innocent people are lucky enough to have an expert like Dr. Uscinki. The offer was declined.

I do have to say that I was disappointed by Emily Bazelon. She is the author of the article on SBS convictions in the New York Times Sunday Magazine earlier this year. She did not explain her article very well, and confessed to a superficial knowledge of the science. At the end, I was left with the impression that she did census research: talked to a lot of people about shaken baby syndrome and tallied up how many of those people told her the science was incomplete.

It was also disappointing that she never delved into the inconsistency between 1200-1600 reported reported cases of inflicted head trauma a year and her estimate that there are only 200 prosecutions a year. Unless she was excluding cases with pleas from the count, that means only 1 of every 6 reported cases involving children with inflicted injuries is prosecuted.

That is not such a good record.

The presentations are available at:

They're all worthy reviewing, but I would recommend Mark Dias' presentation on controversies and conspiracy theories in abusive head trauma: Link

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