Bone Density Test Can Disprove Shaken Baby Syndrome: by Catherine Frompovich

As a consumer health care researcher and journalist, one of my pet projects is something I think the medical and legal professions may have taken the low road in dealing with caretakers charged with Shaken Baby Syndrome, a medical-legal term that devastates those prosecuted with it and also destroys families due to inaccuracies involved that require children to be removed from parents’ care and placed in foster homes or up for adoption.

Before I delve into the topic I want to discuss, perhaps you may want to know that I have co-authored several papers with Dr. Harold E. Buttram, MD, regarding topics such as Brain Inflammation, Basics of the Human Immune System Prior to Vaccines, and Shaken Baby Syndrome, which can be accessed at the International Medical Council on Vaccination website starting with Vaccines and Brain Inflammation at In order to access the other papers, you will have to scroll through IMCV’s archives. Dr. Buttram’s name appears first on all articles.

Additionally, in early September 2010, I made a presentation before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee on Childhood Vaccines (ACCV) about Shaken Baby Syndrome. To read my report on that FDA meeting, please access it at

Also, I prepared a survey questionnaire about SBS for an international website. So I feel comfortable thinking I know enough about SBS as alleged child abuse to talk about a newly published paper that has me thrilled to say the least, but not quite overly excited due to what I feel may be an omission of probable contributing factors.

Matthew B. Seeley, JD, has published one of the more credible papers regarding SBS I’ve ever read that was produced by mainstream thought, e.g., the medical and/or legal professions. “Unexplained Fractures in Infants and Child Abuse: The Case for Requiring Bone-Density Testing Before Convicting Caretakers” [1] was published in the December 20, 2011 issue of the Brigham Young University Law Review. Dr. Seeley, as I understand, is a researcher and professor at BYU in its College of Life Sciences.

As background history, I’m familiar with SBS from the medical-legal aspects because of the work my collaborator Dr. Buttram has been doing for the last ten or so years, i.e., testifying as a medical expert for the defense, those parents/caretakers who are legally charged with child abuse and/or SBS—often with first degree murder. Since Dr. Buttram has over 100 such cases under his belt, our collaborating on papers about the issue has allowed me to understand more about SBS than the average person.

Dr. Seeley astutely points out that SBS probably got off on the wrong medical and legal ‘feet’ due to the theorized assessments that shaking babies could cause intracranial hemorrhages, as published in a paper by Dr. John Caffey, “On the Theory and Practice of Shaking Infants: Its Potential Residual Effects of Permanent Brain Damage and Mental Retardation” in the American Journal of Diseases of Children (1972). Caffey apparently based his theories upon whiplash studies inducing intracranial hemorrhaging in rhesus monkeys performed by Dr. Ommaya, who advised Caffey that there was no information that could substantiate that humans could generate such angular acceleration via shaking so as to induce the type of rear-end collision injuries the monkeys sustained. Caffey still maintained his theory in the published paper that apparently has become ‘gospel truth’ and prevailed in medicine and at law ever since. Could Caffey’s theory been a mistake that’s been perpetuated all this time and for which innocent parents and caretakers have paid an awful legal price?

Adding more ‘legal salt’ to the SBS injury, Dr. Caffey published “The Whiplash Shaken Infant Syndrome: Manual Shaking by the Extremities with Whiplash-Induced Intracranial Bleedings, Linked With Residual Permanent Brain Damage and Mental Retardation” in Pediatrics in 1974 wherein he gave his opinion that subdural and retinal hemorrhaging without signs of external physical abuse, would be sufficient to diagnose child abuse, medically known as pathognomonic.

For all these years child abuse charges have been prosecuted legally based upon a theory and opinion with no studies to prove or disprove child abuse, since it would be real child abuse to subject children to such actions for a study as Dr. Caffey alleged were responsible for SBS.

Sadly, innocent parents and caretakers have been prosecuted and incarcerated without any means at law to prove themselves innocent until what Dr. Seeley discusses in his exceptional paper: a Bone Density Test—something that can be done inexpensively and does not require high tech equipment, only a properly trained technician to administer.

A single-photon absorptiometry test that uses single-photon absorptiometers (SPAs) has been used for years and is well established for measuring bone density in children. That type of test could exonerate or prove SBS charges, especially if an infant were born prematurely, or when there are no signs of physical abuse presenting on the child’s body.

Additionally, a blood serum Vitamin D test should be mandated and taken of both the supposedly abused infant AND his/her post-partum mother. The mother’s test results could indicate the proclivity to in utero rickets, depending upon how long after the birth the SBS tragedy occurred, while the infant’s test results would confirm insufficient Vitamin D levels that allowed the child to have bone fractures either during the birthing process or even from normal daily baby care, since no one knew of the child’s fragile bones.

As Dr. Seeley points out, many health problems can contribute to in utero rickets; even natural vaginal births can cause broken ribs and other bones due to Osteopenia of Prematurity or other metabolic bone diseases. Infants with certain health proclivities due to poor prenatal nutrition, etc. can suffer broken bones from just being cuddled or properly handled in every day life ministrations. However, when it comes to brain inflammation, I’d like to suggest that Dr. Seeley read Dr. Buttram’s and my papers on the role that vaccines play in causing subdural brain hemorrhages and other central nervous system adverse reactions, including the possibility of contributing to the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I know if he reads this article, Dr. Seeley may bristle at the thought that vaccines can contribute to SBS, but as he says, there are some unknowns yet to be discovered by medicine regarding this syndrome. There is much in the literature that points to vaccines as one of those yet unknowns.

I cannot congratulate Dr. Seeley enough for bringing a great deal of scientific sense to the SBS problem, and I suggest that the law, legal and medical professions, federal and state health agencies immediately mandate Vitamin D assays and/or Bone Density Tests for all premature babies whose parent(s) or caretaker(s) are charged with child abuse when no physical trauma presents on the child’s body.

Not only do children have to be protected from child abuse, so do innocent adults who are wrongfully charged with crimes they have not committed. Something as simple and inexpensive as a blood serum Vitamin D assay or a Bone Density Test will prove three things: 1) the condition of the child’s bones, i.e., something an X-ray can do only when 40 percent bone loss has to occurred thus the medical-legal need for a Vitamin D assay; and 2) legal proof that SBS charges are not warranted; and 3) the child needs proper medical care to build up bones that can fracture very easily that was an unknown until either the Vitamin D assay or Bone Density Test.

I’d like to see bone density investigation go a step further and become similar to the Apgar test given at birth and the unfortunate Hepatitis B vaccine, which is mandated within 24 hours of birth. That is, blood Vitamin D assays should be mandated for all premature babies to ascertain whether the infant has in utero rickets and is prone to bone fractures or possibly has fractures as a result of the birthing process.

Furthermore, I suggest that the Hepatitis B vaccine NOT be administered to premature infants before the blood Vitamin D assay is performed as the test results may indicate health anomalies that the Hep B vaccine can induce or exacerbate, especially in premature birth babies. The Pourcyrous et al study “Primary immunization of premature infants with gestational age <35 weeks: Cardiorespiratory complications and C-reactive protein responses associated with administration of single and multiple separate vaccines simultaneously” [2] details what can happen.

However, I will go so far as to say that I think a Bone Density Test, which involves ionizing radiation, just may be the lesser of the evils when a parent is charged with SBS and child abuse and no physical trauma presents on the child. If the innocent parent faces a protracted jail term, which would deprive the infant of being raised by a loving and innocent parent, then that test could prove both SBS innocence and the need for the child’s proper bone healthcare. As it stands now, innocent parents have their children taken away and placed in foster care or up for adoption. What a tragedy occurs within the justice system when the innocent are mistreated, especially because of lack of proper knowledge.

The SBS situation can be equated with other legal cases where innocent parties were exonerated by DNA tests. SBS medical-legal problems need to be reconsidered and I think what I discuss in this paper presents something for both the medical and legal professions to consider seriously.

However, Dr. Seeley’s paper has so much ‘meat’ in it that I’d like to discuss, I plan on writing more about his truly insightful paper. Thank you, Dr. Seeley.

[1] accessed 1/24/12
[2] Pourcyrous M, Korones SB, Kristopher LA, Bada HS. Primary immunization of premature infants with gestational age <35 weeks: Cardiorespiratory complications and C-reactive protein responses associated with administration of single and multiple separate vaccines simultaneously. J Pediatrics. 2007:151, p.171.