Innocent Families Stand With Dr. Waney Squier

WindowLogoThe General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK announced last week that it has removed pediatric neuropathologist Waney Squier from the medical register, meaning she will no longer be allowed to practice or to testify as an expert witness. The move is a setback for parents falsely accused of child abuse, as Dr. Squier is one of the rare, brave physicians who both understand the problems with shaken baby theory and express their opinions openly, in the journals and in the courtroom.

Protecting Innocent Families, Inc. responded with a letter to the GMC in support of Dr. Squier, which we also sent to the newspapers that had reported the sanctions. That letter appears at the end of this post. So far, our letter and cover note have been quoted at length in a treatment by Matt Oliver at the Witney Gazette in the UK, “Campaign group defends ‘dishonest’ doctor struck off medical register for ‘shaken baby’ evidence,” and by Christina England at Health Impact News, “Shaken baby syndrome expert and world renowned pathologist banned from practicing medicine.” (Do not be thrown by the lead in the Gazette piece—we have not started a petition of behalf of Dr. Squier; we think it’s a misunderstanding of our Protecting Innocent Families petition.)

Gratifyingly, the GMC’s move has also triggered some serious public debate, including a series of opinions and counter-opinions in The Guardian (today’s:  “The Science of Shaken Baby Syndrome“). The On SBS blog just posted a summary of the press response to the GMC’s decision.

At least this setback seems to be an opportunity to raise awareness about a flawed theory that’s still winning in the courtroom.

The text of the letter we submitted to the GMC:

Honourable Council Members,

We are writing in the defense of Dr. Waney Squier, a pediatric neuropathologist who was struck off the medical register this week for practicing outside her area of expertise, ignoring the opinions of her peers, and bringing the reputation of the medical profession into disrepute with her testimony and written opinions in a series of shaken baby cases she helped defend between 2007 and 2010.

We know from personal experience that the prevailing model of shaken baby syndrome is flawed, a fact that is also supported by peer-reviewed literature. Although shaking an infant can cause serious injury and death, the presence of the intracranial and retinal findings now associated with shaken baby syndrome does not prove abuse, which is the vital message Dr. Squier brings to the debate. We are dismayed that the Council is sanctioning her for having the courage and intellectual honesty to express her own views, which are not popular but which are founded on solid scientific thinking and the best available evidence. Many of these diagnoses are based on the presence of non-specific findings (thin subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhages, and encephalopathy) that can be associated with a number of medical conditions and accidental trauma as well as inflicted injury. It is a logical error to conclude that because abuse can cause the findings, the presence of the findings proves abuse.

We are a coalition of innocent families accused of child abuse and the scientists, physicians, attorneys, and neighbors who support us. We have been calling for an impartial, scientific review of the evidence base for the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome and other forms of child abuse by an objective body of scientists who can evaluate the known facts. Your decision regarding Dr. Squier illustrates how seriously such a review is needed.

We are dismayed both by the accusations themselves and by the details of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service report that led to your decision. The tribunal states, for example, that Dr. Squier erred by giving opinions on questions of biomechanics, a field in which she has no formal training. We find this criticism ironic, because the child abuse experts who testify that certain findings prove a child has been shaken also have no formal education in biomechanics. Dr. Squier is probably more familiar with the biomechanical research than most neurosurgeons, pathologists, and other medical experts, in fact, because she worked closely with Chris Van Ee, PhD, a recognized expert in the field, on her 2008 paper “Shaken baby syndrome: The quest for evidence” (Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 2008, 50:10–14).

The declaration also scolds Dr. Squier unfairly for her citations of the medical research. In one example, she cited the early biomechanical research of Dr. Anne-Christine Duhaime and colleagues (“The shaken baby syndrome: A clinical, pathological, and biomechanical study,” Journal of Neurosurgery 1987 66:409–415) to support her observation that shaking without impact has not been shown to generate sufficient forces to cause brain injury. The panel wrote that Dr. Squier had “completely misinterpreted what Duhaime had actually said,” a conclusion that baffles us. The Duhaime paper was a landmark in the field, because it was the first attempt to test shaking theory scientifically, and the results surprised even the authors, who wrote:

“It was concluded that severe head injuries commonly diagnosed as shaking injuries require impact to occur and that shaking alone in an otherwise normal baby is unlikely to cause the shaken baby syndrome.”

These examples only illustrate the many problems we see with the MPTS report. We encourage you to reconsider the conclusions of the tribunal, and to submit any doubts about Dr. Squier’s opinions to a body that looks at the literature itself, not at other people’s testimony regarding the literature. A consensus of unscientific opinion creates neither science nor medical fact. Even if she were wrong about shaken baby theory, which we don’t think she is, her actions have been taken in good faith and without any attempt to deceive. She has the right to hold an opinion that differs from the majority, especially when supported by valid scientific thought. Without Dr. Squier’s voice, only one side of a legitimate medical debate will reach the courtroom.

Dr. Squier is not alone in her thinking, either. Dr. A. Norman Guthkelch, the first physician to propose in print that shaking can cause subdural hematoma (in the British Medical Journal in 1971), has also defended caretakers accused of infant shaking. He told one of our members in 2012 that he is “horrified” at how his initial proposition is being misrepresented in court, saying, “I am frankly quite disturbed that what I intended as a friendly suggestion for avoiding injury to children has become an excuse for imprisoning innocent parents.” Dr. Squier has received the support of not only Dr. Guthkelch but also a number of other prominent physicians, including Dr. Patrick Barnes at the Louise Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford; Dr. Roland Auer at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, author of Forensic Neuropathology and Associated Neurology (Springer 2005); and Dr. Jan Leestma, author of Forensic Neuropathology (CRC Press, third edition 2014)—all three of whom once accepted the prevailing model of shaken baby syndrome but have since changed their minds.

Dr. Squier is a brilliant physician whose work is internationally known and respected by the scientific community, with the exception of child abuse experts. Her professional writing is founded in science and the scientific method. Her acumen, professionalism, and probity are beyond reproach.

Thank you for considering our experience and perspective. We look forward to your response.

Truly,

The Protecting Innocent Families Board of Directors:

Sue Luttner, President
California, USA

Jennie Aspelin, Vice President
California, USA

Audrey Edmunds, Secretary
Wisconsin, USA

Dr. Bergina Brickhouse, Psychiatrist
Washington, D.C., USA

Dr. Charles Hyman, Retired Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
California, USA

Melissa Staas, Attorney
Illinois, USA

And these other endorsers:

David Ayoub, MD
Clinical Radiologists, S.C., Illinois, USA

Janine Baumgartner
For the Defense of Cindy Vosecek Rosenwinkel, Illinois, USA

Joshua and Brenda Burns, Michigan, USA

Hannah Eckman
Board Member, Torn Family Trust, Michigan, USA

Matt Eckman
Chairman of the Board, Torn Family Trust, Michigan, USA

Katherine Vaughan Ellwood
Marsha Mills Is Innocent, Ohio, USA

Jennifer Fitzgerald, Attorney
Brian Peixoto: Struggle for Innocence, Rhode Island, USA

Mats Hellberg
Board Member, Riksförbundet För Familjers Rättigheter (National Association for Families’ Rights), Sweden

Kimberly Leonard
Executive Director, Pediatric Justice Association, North Carolina, USA

Kristen Maanum, Washington, USA

Aaron Meyer, Attorney, California, USA

Lisa Munger
Advocate, Brian Peixoto: Struggle for Innocence, Massachusetts, USA

Nancy O’Geary-Smith
SBS-Project – Sean O’Geary, Iowa, USA

James Phillips, London, UK

Tonya Sadowsky
Director, The Amanda Truth Project, Ohio, USA

Douglas Smith, MD PhD,
Board Member, Torn Family Trust, Michigan, USA

Katie Steele
Board Member, Torn Family Trust, Michigan, USA

Michelle Weidner
Pediatric Accountability in Central Illinois, Illinois, USA

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2 thoughts on “Innocent Families Stand With Dr. Waney Squier

  1. Pingback: GMC Sanction Triggers Public Debate | On SBS

  2. Pingback: British High Court Reinstates Dr. Squier | Protecting Innocent Families

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