|Gillian Findlay, Bob McKeown, Hana Gartner, Linden MacIntyre|
This September, CBC’s Fifth Estate will air a documentary concerning Shaken Baby Syndrome. To that end, a crew were in attendance at last weekend’s Conference on Evidence Based Medicine and Social Investigation. The venue was advantageous for the producers because Dr. Chris Van Ee and numerous other experts were presenters and were willing to be interviewed.
Zabeth and Paul Bayne were accused of SBS in 2007, charged briefly, and within hours charges were dropped by RCMP due to insufficient evidence. That should have been a clue to MCFD. However, the Ministry of Children, concerned for the protection of children generally, were concerned for the Bayne children, understandably I might add, because their youngest at the time, the third child, a daughter had sustained very serious head injuries. The Baynes’ explanation of a household accident, one child falling on the infant while she lay on a blanket on the floor did not satisfy the MCFD. Further, they were grounded upon the respected opinion of a pediatrician and Children’s Hospital who diagnosed the injuries as being the result of shaking.
Without question this is a complex case. SBS is a theory. When medical practitioners are convinced that SBS is decisively and exclusively the explanation for the triad of symptoms that described the Bayne baby’s condition, they look no further. It has become steadily and increasingly clear that SBS cannot be viewed as the default diagnosis for such symptoms without risking grave injustice to innocent parents. Prisons all over North America have incarcerated innocent people based on this SBS theory. Children are in institutional or foster care because their physical injuries were considered to be willfully induced. They were the result of abuse.
In March 2011, close to four years after the baby’s initial medical crisis, Judge Thomas Crabtree ruled that he dismissed the Ministry’s claim that SBS was the cause of the child’s injuries. That should immediately mean the Paul and Zabeth cannot be considered responsible by reason of abuse for their infant daughter’s injuries. It was not that simple. The judge still struggled with unexplained injuries because he was dissatisfied with their explanation of an accident between children. It wasn’t that he disbelieved it, but he deemed there were inconsistencies in the testimony. For that reason he did not return the children immediately, but kept them in care for three months and expressed that the Baynes and the Ministry needed to work toward agreement and the return of the children. That family restoration is scheduled to be completed by August 25th 2011.
That is all there is to it. The Ministry has been satisfied with the Parental Capacity Assessment of the Baynes and all of the efforts the Baynes have made to comply with Ministry requirements. SBS and the Baynes are not to be mentioned with the same breath. The baby’s injuries may never be adequately explained, but there are now numerous plausible alternative explanations that fit with a household accident. And that is all that is left.
It will be of interest to us all how Fifth Estate handles the shaken baby debate and the life changing ramifications of hasty and false accusations of SBS.