Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ohio's "Shaken Baby Syndrome" Law

Ohio has a new “shaken baby syndrome” law that becomes effective Friday, February 29th --- the first in the country that will attempt to notate and track deaths and injuries associated with that behavior. (Article)

Shaken baby syndrome” is a concept that evolved out of the work & observations of Drs. John Caffey and Norman Guthkelch in the early 1970s which described death or injury incurred by young children from being violently shook. A number of states have passed legislation viewing “shaken baby syndrome” as a form of child abuse, including Indiana, which passed its statutes in 1998. The majority center around educational programs

Ohio’s initial attempt at “shaken baby syndrome” legislation was back in 2003 with a bill that died in the Senate in May of that year. There were major changes in Ohio child care, welfare and adoption laws in 2006, notably the establishment of a “uniform statewide automated child welfare information system as a collection point of information regarding investigations of known, threatened, or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.” The bill here concerned was introduced in April and passed by November 2007. Its perhaps most notable section is that calling for public children services agencies making a report of investigations in the automated child welfare information system to add notations “in each case of child abuse that indicates whether the abuse arose from an act that caused the child to suffer from, or resulted in the child suffering from, shaken baby syndrome,” and an annual report compiled thereafter.

There is some dispute over the legal implications of “shaken baby” characteristics which has resulted in not all of the states taking as proactive an approach as others. Kentucky is a good example of this other position. In April 2006 there was a “Daubert hearing” in Greenup County Circuit Court to determine the admissibility of proposed medical and scientific evidence, with the Commonwealth’s case based upon the testimony of shaken baby syndrome experts. The testimony was barred, with that court concluding that “SBS has not gained wide or general acceptance in the scientific community for the purposes of allowing an expert to testify that a baby has been subjected to abuse …the medical signs & symptoms, clinical medical and scientific research communities are in disagreement… Therefore the Court finds that because the Daubert test has not been met, neither party can call a witness to give an expert opinion….” That decision is currently being appealed but has progressed no further. ( Also See Here for more information)

Similar legislation to that on the state level was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2006 and again in April of last year .

Analysis of Ohio Bill
Ohio Revised Code


almirati said...

Why are we using wikipedia as a source, just curious. There are ample places to get very good solid information on SBS, such as the Military Law Review's research on all the theories surrounding SBS. We don't even know yet whether or not a human can physically shake an infant and cause any injury at all, but we're going to use wikipedia as our source? I expected better.

George said...

Defense attorneys, whether in the military or in civilian life, seem to have one thing in common: a theory that SBS doesn't exist. Assessing the viability of a medical syndrome, which is what SBS is, by whether the defense attorney or the prosecutor has done the better job of explaining it to a judge, is not particularly wise, if your goal is to prevent children from dying. A better test is to explain to new parents how vulnerable children are to inflicted head injury and see what happens: in the case of hospitals in the Buffalo, New York area, a 55% reduction in injury.
And biomechanical models that explain how bumblebees and butterflies can fly have only been articulated in the last two years. And they still can't explain fully how water gets to the top of a redwood tree...
Just because we can't explain how something happened doesn't mean it didn't: there is plenty of evidence of the consequences that a moment of rage can have.