Accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome?

By · June 24, 2010 · Filed in Criminal Cases

Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Attorney Prepare Your Case

If you have been charged with “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS) or “non-accidental head injury to a child,” there are several things that you can do to help your attorney prepare your case. The most important thing you must remember is this: do not talk to anyone about your case without your attorney’s permission. Do not contact experts, do not talk to people on the web, by phone or by email, without clearing it with your attorney first. The second thing you must remember is that this is a long process; it takes a lot of time to learn the medical literature and secure experts to review your case. The more that you can do to help your attorney prepare your case, the better advantage you will have at trial. What follows are three things you can do to help prepare your case for trial.

Step 1. Collect all of the baby’s medical records since birth. If you are the child’s parent, or the child’s parent is supportive of your innocence, you can sign a “release of medical records” form to obtain all past and present medical records of the child. If you are not the parent, if your parenting rights have been terminated, or if the parents of the child are not supportive of your innocence, your attorney will have to subpoena the medical records from each medical facility the child has visited. Do not trust the prosecution to turn over all of the medical records on its own: they will often cherry pick only records that tend to bolster their case. The following is a list of records your attorney will need to obtain before experts can review your case:

  • Prenatal records (will be listed under the mother’s name)
  • Birth records (under both mother’s and child’s names)
  • Well-baby check-ups and all previous doctor visits
  • Vaccination records
  • Medical records of siblings
  • Daycare records
  • Paramedic records
  • ER records for day of collapse
  • CT Scans, Bone Scans, MRI’s, X-Rays, Retinal Camera Photos
  • Progress and follow up records—(if the baby lived)
  • Autopsy (if the baby died)
  • Pathology or neuropathology repots and slides (if applicable)

Step 2. Create a timeline of the child’s medical history. Subdural hematomas cannot be dated accurately. Instead, we tend to think of them in windows of time. An acute subdural is defined as 1-72 hours old, a subacute is 3-10 days old, and a chronic is anything older than 10 days. An accurate timeline of the child’s falls, hospital visits, vaccinations, symptoms, and any peculiar behaviors may help your expert time the bleeds or identify their origin.
Here are some questions that may be important to a child’s medical history:

  1. Was the pregnancy difficult?
  2. Was the baby’s birth premature?
  3. Was childbirth complicated?
  4. Were there any short falls or impacts to the head at any time since birth?
    • If so, when?
    • Who was with the child at the time of the fall?
    • Did the child see a doctor?
  5. What did the head circumferences look like? Review the medical records and chart out height, weight and head circumference from birth. The most accurate percentile calculators on the web calculate specifically for gender and number of days old.
    • Has the head circumference jumped percentile lines?
    • Is head circumference disproportionate to weight and/or height?
  6. Has the child shown any of the following signs of increase intracranial pressure since birth (particularly in the last 3 days
    before his or her hospitalization):
    • Lethargy?
    • Vomiting? (projectile?)
    • Reduced feedings?
    • Inconsolable crying or unusual sounding cries?
    • Positional discomfort? (preferring to be seated in a swing or carrier, crying when layed down etc.)
    • Seizures?
  7. Was anyone else with the baby, unsupervised, for the last three days?
  8. Did the parents call or visit the doctor in the last 3 days?

Step 3. Get Informed About the Science. Though it is a good idea to do some medical research on the web, be careful to use only peer-reviewed journals and Academy statements when providing your family or your attorney with research for trial. There are websites with annotated bibliographies of the most authoritative articles in the areas of childhood head injuries. Try www.SBSDefense.com for a list or articles and strategies for defending against false accusations of non-accidental trauma.

article by Toni Blake

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