Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Evidence Based Medicine Conference and SBS / 591

The Evidence Based Medicine and Social Investigation Conference 2011, convened August 4, 5 and 6. There were approximately sixty registrants. Many others should have enjoyed the opportunity to dialogue with the guest presenters. There were helpful break and mealtime exchanges between experts and appreciative attendees. Perhaps this will be the first of many such conferences.

I attended the Friday morning sessions of the Conference. I arrived early enough to grab breakfast at a table where Mark Freeman, Patrick Barnes and Harold Buttram were seated and after a quick introduction I listened to their case stories. Mark Freeman spoke to the Conference on Thursday. Law is his second career.

Mark Freeman was a mechanical engineer and worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and later ran his own small business. Then he went to Law School and began a law practice focused on Elder law, estate planning and administration. The experience of a personal friend who after taking a child to hospital due to vomiting and seizure, and was subsequently arrested and charged with child endangerment and assault, was Freeman’s initiation into the arena of Shaken Baby allegations. Freeman embarked upon an extreme SBS self-education program until he understood the medical presumption of abuse when a child has a subdural hematoma, He learned that legal and child protection agencies endorse this categorical presumption. His mechanical engineering background now proved its value because he comprehended why injury bioengineers consistently reject the SBS hypothesis based upon mechanical engineering science. He found it offensive that innocent parents were being criminally charged and their children were being removed. This has for him become a professional calling to represent people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey who have been falsely accused. He finds great satisfaction in successful defenses against false charges of abuse.

The four primary speakers on Friday morning and afternoon were Drs. Buttram, Plunkett, Gardner and Barnes. Harold Buttram is a physician. Horace Gardner is an opthamologist. John Plunkett is a forensic pathologist and Patrick Barnes is a pediatric radiologist. All of these disciplines underscored the growing body of medical and scientific evidence that demonstrates that the shaken baby syndrome is discredited as the go-to diagnosis for injuries to a child. Rather there is a myriad of known non-traumatic medical causes that should be considered if evidence based medicine is being practiced. Clearly there was an identifiable atmosphere of collegiality, compassion, informed criticism of rigid diagnoses that do not do due diligence, of purpose to inform and reform. These should happen across the nation.

On Saturday, the legal counsel for Paul and Zabeth, Mr. Doug Christie, will be on hand to speak. He is a hero of sorts and if he suggests that is too grandiose a description, then let me say simply that he is a very good and capable man. He knew that it was unlikely that the Baynes would be able to pay him, yet he chose to represent them. He did not enter the fray fully up to speed on family law and SBS but he has a deep appreciation for fairness and a distaste for injustice. Besides this he is an intriguing character. There is a measure of eccentricity about him, a flair, a swagger, a wide brimmed fedora, a confidence that is comforting, an eloquence allied to a very incisive mind. While Robert Hamilton’s expertise in family law has successfully served the Bayne campaign in these latter months, I credit Mr. Christie for the achievement of speaking truth and common sense and fair play throughout the 2010 court hearing. I know that Judge Crabtree could not ignore this clarion call to rightness when the other side sounded like twaddle.


  1. I watched the Friday afternoon sessions with Dr. Patrick Barnes and mom Tonya Maa from Ohio (her facebook name).

    Dr. Barnes did a highly technical presentation whose target audience was other physicians, as opposed by laymen like me. There were numerous slides of brains, CT scans, MRI, X-Rays, diagrams and copious references to studies.

    Those in the audience asked equally technical questions. The 90-minute talk was interspersed with good humor and several real-life examples that allowed a layman like me to understand the incredible damage done to families with a misdiagnosis that would put a caregiver behind bars or cause them to lose their children.

    An interview that sums up his presentation is at

    The Fifth Estate was there filming much of his talk. I noted outside on the table that audio CD's could be ordered at $10 per session or $100 for the entire 3-day conference.

    At the break, a fine lunch was provided in the venue cafeteria that included salad, chicken, potatoes, choice of drinks. Very tasty.

    Next up was Tonya Maa from Ohio (not her real last name, but her Facebook name), has a website at

    Tonya spoke from the point of view of a victim of an unjust system, as her husband Elwood is now in prison since 2007 for a minimum of 13 years for pleading guilty to shaking their child.

    Elwood suffers from MoyaMoya, meaning that he has random blackouts due to lack of oxygen to the brain that is due to a birth defect.

    He was home alone caring for his daughter, and was holding her, when he suddenly collapsed, and dropped his daughter on her head. Within hours, she died. The medical establishment diagnosed shaken baby syndrome. Elwood, as the last person with the child was the perpetrator.

    Elwood was charged, and his interrogators convinced him that to save his wife from also being charged and/or publicly embarrassed, and to reduce his time in prison, that he should cop a plea and confess that he did deliberately harm his child. So, Elwood agreed to this plea bargain. They lost an appeal. His wife Tonya vows that she will not give up.

    I noted from Tonya's website that the prison doesn't supply sundry items such as toothpaste and soap! The family is expected to 'chip in.'

    Like Paul Bayne, Elwood has a keen artistic eye and is able to draw, see

    Tonya became a researcher of medical misdiagnosis and a bit of lawyer. She posted her findings on the above website. She started asking questions, beginning with a startling with a discovery that 74% of convictions in court were by way of plea bargain. Just like her husband.

    There were a few moments of emotion as she recalled the loss of her child. She recounted the callous treatment of the medical and legal establishment which paled in comparison to the treatment by the public when her husband was labelled a baby killer.

    Needless to say, the in-person impact of hearing such a story evoked the same kind of outrage and disbelief at the system as when I first heard of the Baynes story.

    From the 911 call where the operator did not believe Elwood's story that he dropped her, to the police, the lawyers, and the doctors who all contributed to support a finding of shaken baby syndrome, the tale illustrates a situation any parent could find themselves in when reporting accidents to their children to authorities.

    In this case, it does not appear as there was any involvment of child protection authorities, so Tonya is very lucky to be spared that level of horror the Baynes had to endure.

    The last fact that stuck in my mind was that from the injury to the final sentence, a span of time of only 3 months elapsed.

    (Saturday continued...)

  2. (Saturday 1 of 2)

    Saturday, August 6th, a compliment was paid to the Baynes by 35-year veteran Illinois lawyer Zachery Bravos (see, who attends such conferences in order to keep his knowledge of medical advances up to date, and he said the quality of the speakers were simply the best he has seen to date.

    Doug Christie spoke Saturday morning. He spoke with a degree of fire and brimstone against the injustices the Baynes have endured. He cited a few of his case examples. There is no question he was the main reason the Baynes were able to succeed as they have, and I feel privileged to have witnessed Mr. Christie argue in court. The impassioned talk by Mr. Christie illustrated why his help is likely the biggest reason the Baynes have all their four children back today.

    All four of Baynes children were there. It was quite a sight for me to see them all together for the first time. What a great bunch, so cute and each with their own endearing personality. Baden read his dad a story from his book and I watched an listened. Bethany always seemed to be smiling. They were clearly very attached to their parents. This, I think, was one of those rare happy endings in a shaken baby case.

    Christina England appeared by Skype video to read Dr. Viera Scheibner's prepared speech. It was all very technical. Essentially I gathered that vaccinations can apparently cause issues with infants that mimic shaken baby syndrome.

    Dr. John Galaznik from Texas, spoke with a wonderful Texan accent. He put some slides on that simplified the understanding that strongly suggested that any declaration of SBS is not a valid scientifically arrived-at diagnosis. He cited studies and numerous examples that debunked SBS very thoroughly. He explained head impact from dropping from just 3 or 4 feet causes incredible damage that is impossible to duplicate with 'shaking'. In one instance, he found he was able to shake his own head with more force than could be achieved by shaking animal subjects or sensor-equipped dummies.

    Ray Ferris spoke a second time (I missed his first session) where he cited some stories from his book, "The Art of Child Protection." It was clear the degree of care and attention paid to families in the era in which he practiced and simply not heard of with today's social work. Not within my advocacy travels, anyways.

    Mark Freeman, a lawyer from Pennsylvania with a mechanical engineering degree talked about legal strategies used against parents accused of SBS. He spoke of the high rate of confessions of people who had not committed the offence but they wanted to please the interrogator. One story he relayed was of four army servicement accused of rape. Police elicited confessions from the individuals, but then DNA evidence proved they could not have done what they confessed to. He referred to the innocence project, where 25% of 272 people convicted of a crime was cleared because of DNA evidence. Confession to SBS is not a validation of its scientific integrity.

    Recalling yesterday's talk by Tonya, whose husband sits in jail for a minimum of 18 years before parole, I am sure she has found this conference useful and will be able to use the information to eventually exhonerate her husband.

    The participants were from all walks of life. Other expert doctors, parents, social workers, foster parents, lawyers. I talked to some, and it became clear that the over zealous response by government officials to parents and caregivers with children who have injuries is a world-wide problem.

  3. (Saturday 2 of 2)

    Lawyer Zachery Bravos spoke of this conference as a beginning of a movement that could grow and continue to debunk shaken baby dignosis (now renamed non-accidental injury) in the same way that the concept of repressed memory was evicted from insurance company coverage.

    Paul and Zabeth should be commended for organizing this remarkable conference in the midst of the time their three older children were still in care and their fourth newborn had been apprehended. This was one of the closing comments by one of the presenters.

    All in all, this was a very inspiring conference with extremely talented individuals volunteering their time and expertise. I think Zabeth referred to them as rock stars.

    The conference is a perfect example of a few committed individuals that can initiate change and correction of injustices in the world.

    The website and lineup of speakers is at:

    In understood from speaking with cameraman Charter Lau, that at some point DVD's of the various sessions will be available. The sessions contained informationally dense slide shows, so it should be interesting to see how that will be delivered. I was surprised to hear that rhe Audio CD's were completed moments after the last conference concluded. I believe it was $10 per session, or $100 for the 3-day set.

  4. If this Elwood fella has a diagnosis of blackouts is the reason he remains in jail because there is no way to prove he had a blackout when the child was harmed and then later died from the injuries? (thanks, haven't read the web page).

    Ron - I've googled Ray Ferris' book but it did not come up in the search engine...? Your web did quite a lot though. Help with providing a link to a review of the book please.


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