Dr. Waney Squire, Who Served as Expert Witness at Shaken Baby Trials Looses License, Banned from Practicing Medicine
It was a sad day for science and evidence over panic and hysteria as Dr. Waney Squier, a senior pediatric neuropathologist who has testified at several so-called “shaken baby” trials, had her name stricken from the medical register in the UK, effectively ending her career as a doctor.
The governing and registering body for doctors in the UK, the General Medical Council (GMC) had found Dr. Squier guilty of “…misleading her peers, being irresponsible, dishonest and bringing the reputation of the medical profession into disrepute.”
As a result, the GMC erased Dr. Squier’s name from the medical register, removing her license to practice medicine.
Although Squier had served as a respected and distinguished consultant at John Radcliffe Hospital for 32 years, she found herself increasingly under fire in recent years over her stance toward diagnoses of “shaken baby syndrome.” Described as a set of symptoms that current medicine believes can only be created if an infant is violently shaken–including subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhages, and encephalopathy–the science behind the diagnosis has increasingly come into question.
The idea that the “triad” of injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome can only come from violent physical shaking is something that Squier and others have examined and on which she has testified as an expert witness. She and others called into question the cut-and-dried theory, suggesting that although violent shaking can cause these symptoms, they don’t necessarily mean that the baby was violently shaken.
That’s where Squier ran afoul of the British medical establishment. Because police, reporters and prosecutors prefer simple narratives to feed to juries and judges, any questioning of the “science” of shaken baby syndrome was seen as something that could undermine them. Any questioning–even perfectly legitimate, scientific questioning–was seen as muddying the waters and needed to be squelched.
Despite the fact that people have been sentenced to death based on these findings, the establishment would prefer not to open them to question.
Many doctors and lay people came to Squier’s defense. In one particularly spirited letter from a group called Protecting Innocent Families signed by several medical professionals, the GMC tribunal was taken to task:
“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.”
Indeed it is a sad day when scientific questioning is discarded in favor of facile and overly simplistic models that–whatever their good intentions may have originally been–are clearly flawed and designed only to make easier and more black and white the jobs of social services workers, police and prosecutors.
In a telling bit of irony, the tribunal that ultimately led to the pulling of Squier’s license due to her supposed lack of medical expertise consisted of exactly zero medical doctors trained in neurology. They were a retired Air Force officer, a retired cop and a retired psychiatrist.
But although it is a sad day for medicine, science and justice, the outrage surrounding the treatment of Squier may ultimately shine a light on the dogma of shaken baby syndrome and lead to some much-needed changes.
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