MORE ON THE COLBOURNE TESTIMONY
(The first portion was written earlier today and near the bottom you see an urgent addition in yellow font added a little later. The first is positive, the second is a concern)I return to recap the results of the testimony and cross examination of Dr. Margaret Colbourne. She was in the witness box Wednesday and Thursday. She is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at BC’s Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, BC, and a pediatrician with the Child Protection Service Unit of the hospital. She was a witness for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It was her well intentioned diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome in connection with Baby B Bayne that initiated the October 2007 police action MCFD actions against the Baynes. It was her testimony of this diagnosis that was pivotal to the continued claim by MCFD that the Baynes are unfit parents. On Wednesday, when Judge Crabtree stepped from the bench and deliberated for one hour and returned to rule on the matter of whether Dr. Colbourne was qualified to testify that seven week old Baby Bayne's’s injuries were accidental or non accidental, and whether she was qualified to state categorically that Baby B'ss injuries had been sustained by being shaken by an adult, the earth stopped on its axis for a moment. Then it continued to turn while simultaneously the sun shone more brightly and the landscape became clearer for the Baynes. Finn Jensen and Dr. Colbourne were informed that Dr. Colbourne’s testimony concerning the nature of the injuries she observed on the day in October 2007 when she examined Baby B was admissible, but that Dr. Colbourne was not permitted to state her opinions about whether the injuries were non accidental or accidental nor was she permitted to state her belief that Baby B was a shaken baby.
Fundamentally, this is a ruling which speaks to the requisite expertise for distinguishing accidental injuries from injuries inflicted by someone, the latter leading possibly to criminal charges and other consequences such as removal of the children when the injury inducer is a parent. This ruling on this day is specific at the moment to this one case. In time it may serve as the precedent in British Columbia for subsequent cases in which assumptions of cause have been rendered or will be rendered by medical professionals who are unqualified precisely in the disciplines needed for making such critical diagnoses. It is a ruling that speaks to an understanding that certain types of injuries require particular professional credentials. This may become a standard by which to assess the reliability of an expert witness in such cases as shaken baby and other suspected abuse cases that could have differential diagnoses.
In all the incidents of life that are horrific and painful, the understandable instinctive response is to ask, ‘WHY?’ It is possible and even likely that Paul and Zabeth Bayne asked this simply question. But two years and three months have crawled by. During these past months they began to reflect more seriously on the grand scheme of things and the possibility that their agony might one day result in not only redemption for their family but also the restoration of other families where there have been mistaken diagnoses yet no legal recourse because of the strength of condemning testimonies by professionals.
The following is a quick addendum to the post above. It's important to supporters of the Baynes because it shows they need your support and prayers so much more. If you can be at one of the court days, your presence helps them and makes a point to the Court.
I now have had to hastily add this addendum to my previously more positive note about the testimony of Dr. Margaret Colbourne. Yesterday, Thursday, Finn Jensen cleverly began his examination of Dr. Colbourne this way. Since on Wednesday he had received the Judge’s ruling that he could not have Colbourne speak to the cause as accidental or non accidental, he asked for her opinion on what causes she could rule out for Bethany’s injuries. Despite Doug Christie’s objections she was permitted ultimately to narrow the causes until shaken baby was the only statement of cause left standing. (This, in spite of the previous day’s ruling.)
It was revealed during cross examination that Dr. Colbourne now views this injury as ‘blunt impact’ and shaking. She was reminded that she did not state this in her initial diagnosis. When asked at what time she arrived at this conclusion, she stated in the spring of 2008. Doug Christie suggested that this would have been following her receipt of the experts’ reports that had been supplied by the Baynes – reports which validated the history of events as the Baynes had described. Her response was that she had believed the ‘blunt impact’ component at the beginning but had omitted it in her initial report. (The point is that her exclusive shaken baby diagnosis was damning and did not allow for other causal possibilities.)
Dr. Colbourne disagreed that Zabeth witnessed the accident of Baden falling on Bethany. Colbourne testified that Zabeth told her Baden fell on Bethany but that Zabeth had not seen this happen. (That account of the event contradicts the doctors’ reports that preceded Colborne’s involvement – reports which make reference to a witnessed accidental fall of one child on the other.)
Dr. Colbourne also denied knowing that for three weeks prior to admission at Children’s Hospital, Bethany had severe vomiting. When Colbourne was shown an expert’s article which stated that a head injury accompanied by severe vomiting increases intracranial pressure and can cause supplementary bleeding and eye bleeds, Colbourne disagreed.
When Mr. Christie referenced numerous biomechanical papers to which she had access, articles on shaken baby and the physical impossibility for shaken baby to produce the symptoms under discussion, Dr. Colbourne disagreed. (She admitted that when reading the articles she did not comprehend them since biomechanics is not her specialty.)
The witness also disagreed with the published research papers by noted biomechanic and pathology experts which contend that a shaken infant will bear signs of a neck injury. She said that she could not state with assurance that she had ever observed a neck injury on any of the shaken infants she has diagnosed.
Today, Friday, Dr. Randell Alexander has been flown from Florida to give supporting testimony for Dr. Colbourne’s evidence. (His testimony in numerous other cases has assisted the successful prosecution of parents who are in prison today and their children adopted into new families and some parents have faced the death penalty.) More about him later.