What does the father accused of killing the child look like?

After Itan’s death, Alexander and Jonah had two young daughters, now 6 and 2 years old. Their apartment looks like mine, with its dirty kindergarten drawings and pictures of smiling children in frames.

She barely looks at me. Eighty meters bent over his computer, he scrolls through dozens of articles dedicated to the trembling baby syndrome. Alexander wants to show me that the diagnosis is a matter of serious debate. His life, he explained to me, was in the middle of a medical battlefield.

Like many parents, I have heard of trembling baby syndrome. I know adults need to take care of themselves. Pushing to the limit by endless cries, they can hold their baby under the armpits and shake him violently, shaking his head back and forth. This gesture can disable or kill the baby. This will leave three types of traces:

  1. Blood in the brain

  2. And / or behind the eyes and

  3. Brain lesions.

When they identify this “triad”, doctors are more or less sure to diagnose a trembling baby, depending on whether the baby has one or more of these symptoms.

Car accident and trembling baby syndrome

In France, about 400 cases of trembling children are reported in court each year. Then the investigation began. That’s a question Guy Bertrand, the commander of the Paris Juvenile Brigade, explained to me, to identify the author of the hint: “From the moment I read some of the medical certificates, parents can tell me what they want. I know I’m dealing with a trembling baby.”

Vibrating baby syndrome has existed in the medical literature since the 1960s. At the time, several Anglo-Saxon doctors were interested in brain function. In 1968, Ayub Omaya, an American neurosurgeon, wanted to diagnose brain damage caused by a car accident. He puts the anesthetized chimpanzee in a wheelchair, which he violently pushes to mimic the collision. Monkey head, free left, front and back stones: a movement is called Whiplash (Whiplash). Animals then present with subdural hematomas. These studies, funded by the automobile industry, aim to improve road safety. Physicians read them with interest to understand why some children suffer from intracranial hemorrhage.

Among them was Norman Guthkelch, a pediatric surgeon in the north of England. These subdural bleeds arouse his curiosity, as they can occur without warning in children who are initially healthy, without pathology or without any apparent signs of abuse. During counseling, she noticed that some parents were treating their children cruelly. Social workers explain to him that it is a common practice in this region to shake children to silence them.

Distorted thinking

In 1971, Norman Guthkelch imagined that back and forth movements of the head could be responsible for cerebral hemorrhage. To formulate this hypothesis, he has been presented as the “father of Shaken Baby Syndrome”. Towards the end of his life he will say that his thoughts have gone astray. He will be one of the few doctors to protect the parents involved, like Ayub Omaya.

In the early 1970’s, American radiologist John Caffey became interested in the movement. Whiplash. She is scared “Shaking the epidemic”. According to him, the symptoms of SBS may be triggered by violent jolts, but may also be due to more innocuous events such as coughing fit or back slap. Doctrine has evolved since then. It is now taught in France that the link between this whip movement and the symptoms of SBS is certain. And the gestures that provoke it, necessarily violent.

In France, Dr. Anne Laurent-Vanier, a tiny gray-haired woman, rushed to TV shows and to court to warn of the dangers of shaking. A judicial expert in the Court of Cassation, he intervened in the trial of the trembling children and accounted for 200 expert reports on the matter. Even when he is not nominated, he sometimes hides in a public bench of an excise court. At 70 years old, it is still a matter of his life.

These journalists who want to create buzz …

I try to contact him a few times. He ended up answering me. She wants to talk about prevention, but doesn’t want to take part in the debate over trembling baby syndrome. According to him, medical debates exist only in the minds of journalists “Want to create buzz”: “There is a very strong scientific consensus, everyone agrees, except for a handful of doctors.”She reassures me on the phone.

In September 2021, Ann Laurent-Vanier finally opened the door to the houseman’s apartment, which was filled with lights and toys for her grandchildren. “Everyone wants to move a child from time to time. It’s never unusual He offered me a coffee, explained. But it is a very violent gesture. Only no one takes action. This expert has dedicated her career to children. He already had two when he became head of the pediatric rehabilitation department at St. Maurice’s (Val-de-Marne, Paris area) hospital in the 1980’s. For thirty years, she cared for children with severe neurological disorders “They were fine until something happened: a convulsion, a stroke, or a jolt.”For these little patients, the daily routine became an odyssey. Anne Laurent-Vanier teaches them to hold a spoon, move around in a wheelchair. “We, the re-educators, have to deal with the aftermath. And it is extremely supportive

St. Morris Hospital and Necker Hospital are working hand in hand. “I have seen my colleagues in trouble. There were no diagnostic criteria for a trembling baby. They found themselves confronted by people who said they did nothing. They saw the report as an act of condemnation, where it was a matter of protection.Since the 1990s, MRIs and scanners have made it possible to see cerebral hemorrhage better. In the mid-2000s, Ann Laurent-Vanier contacted the Hout Authority de Sante (HAS). “We had to give a line of good behavior about shaking baby syndrome.”

The specialist heads a working group of about twenty people: forensic doctors, radiologists, magistrates. Under the auspices of HAS, they published the recommendations in 2011. The document indicates that in the case of subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhage, the diagnosis of SBS is highly probable. Only in the presence of subdural hematomas, this is possible. Symptoms are expected to appear soon after the concussion, and doctors estimate that they recur in more than half of the cases. “It is important to report to the public prosecutor. This is the only way to introduce a dual system: citizens to protect the child without delay; Criminal. “

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