Considered Innocent Until Proven Guilty: How Does This Apply to Shaken Baby Syndrome and Non-Accidental Injury?

Harold E. Buttram, MD

Catherine J. Frompovich

The foremost principle of law in the United States legal system is innocent until proven guilty. That is paramount in criminal law, but there seems to be a misapplication of that principle in one aspect of medicine involving brain hemorrhages, retinal hemorrhages, multiple fractures, and/or extensive bruising of infants and children, commonly being attributed to parental or caretaker abuse without first performing appropriate medical laboratory tests and investigations to rule out plausible medical causes of the findings. There are a number of acronyms involved: SBS (Shaken Baby Syndrome), NAT (Non-Accidental Trauma), plus others.

As a practicing physician, Harold E. Buttram had his first experience with SBS cases in 1999 when he, among many others, was contacted by Alan Yurko, who received a life sentence without parole in 1998 for supposedly murdering his infant son, and was prosecuted under the medical diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome. On investigation, Dr. Buttram learned that the baby had been born prematurely, suffered from respiratory distress syndrome and remained underweight throughout the ten weeks of his life. The baby died within hours of receiving vaccines with many times the safe dose of Thimserosal, containing 50 percent mercury. (According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the upper safety limit of mercury is 0.1 microgram per kilogram body weight.) In addition, the vaccines included a lot of the DTaP vaccine (Diptheria-Pertusses-Tetanus) that turned out to be one of the “hottest lots” of the 1990s in terms of adverse reactions. However, in 2004 the father was granted an evidentiary hearing based on new evidence of the grossly flawed autopsy report of the baby, on which the father’s conviction had been originally based.

Since that time Dr. Buttram has reviewed medical records and written medical reports on well over one hundred cases and testified in court for the defense on approximately one third of the cases, involving all areas of the continental USA except the Southwest. At least one-third of these cases were done pro bono (at no charge), realizing that many families were being devastated financially as well as socially.

Occasionally in court prosecutors asked Dr. Buttram if he had ever testified in these cases for the prosecution. He always answered “no” for two reasons: First, he had never been asked by a prosecutor to testify for the prosecution, and second, he had never reviewed a case in which he felt that the traditional legal principle, “Considered Innocent until Proven Guilty,” was thoroughly and professionally implemented by hospital physicians. In other words, he had never seen a case in which hospital physicians thoroughly tested for and ruled out plausible medical causes of the findings before assuming accusatory-type diagnoses such as Non-Accidental Trauma, Shaken Baby Syndrome, or most direct of all, Homicide. Very commonly the accusatory diagnoses are assumed in the hospital emergency rooms with findings of brain and retinal hemorrhages (these two are usually found together) and/or multiple fractures without any serious attempt to test for plausible medical causes of the findings, which are almost always present in these cases. Based on these observations it would appear that the governing practice today is a perversion and/or reversal of the traditional “Considered Innocent until Proven Guilty.”

Epidemiologic and Medical Research Studies Implicating Vaccines in a Variety of Medical Complications Including Subdural Brain Hemorrhages, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:

I. Vaccines and Subdural (Brain) Hemorrhages.

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