Shaken by Shaken Baby Convictions that Could Be All Wrong

Hi Readers! I just wanted to call your attention to this amazing piece in Slate by Emily Bazelon. It’s titled, “Are Innocent Parents Being Prosecuted for Killing Their Babies?” And the subtitle is: “The Doctor Who Came Up With ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ Thinks So.”

The gist of the piece is that the symptoms doctors automatically used to assume indicated abuse may sometimes be the result of natural causes. The Free-Range angle for me is that while we have become sensitive to child abuse — which is good —  sometimes we now go overboard and see it when it’s not there. That’s why  CPS will get called in to “protect” children whose parents are simply letting them exercise some independence, for instance. And why, on that same continuum, sometimes prosecutors will charge caregivers for murder when they were just wretchedly unlucky enough to have babies who died.

These days it is hard for us to remember that we can’t protect everyone from everything because Fate intervenes. And we can’t blame parents for every ill that befalls a child for the same reason. The sad, stark fact — that terrible things happen, even to innocent little kids — is a truth we have a hard time understanding in our “Fix it, outlaw it or blame someone!” culture.

Bazelon’s earlier work on the shaken baby topic in The New York Times Magazine was equally excellent (but a lot longer). Here it is. Read it and work to keep our concern for our children from curdling into injustice. — L.