Everyone wants answers, just as much as Serenity's grandmother wants answers. There's no doubt that some parents kick kids around like footballs. The problem is ... where do you get the WHOLE truth? What do the medical people mean by saying that the injuries were "similar to" shaken baby syndrome? Either they are, or they aren't. And this is important, particularly when, as one expert says, at least half of all parents tried for Shaken Baby Syndrome, have been wrongly convicted. Apart from Tony Wall at the Sunday Star Times, the rest of New Zealand media automatically assumes that any diagnosis that comes from that shrine, Starship, has to be right. Presumably under the guise of "balanced reporting" Sunday Star times, allows Michael Laws to call the family, "feral", as if they are guilty before proven so. Yet, the internet is full of stories like this one where just maybe, the parents didn't do it after all. Key lawyers, world wide, are starting to question what they see as serial injustices.
And the reason he's wrong, is that there ARE specific conditions which can LOOK LIKE Shaken Baby Syndrome, which are NOT Shaken Baby Syndrome. Many of the cases overseas, which have been overturned, have been overturned as a result of the parents requesting second-opinion autopsies, having second-opinion X-ray analysis, and some have used blood retained from hospital sampling, to find that their children had vitamin K, vitamin D and immunological issues.
If you have a child with a blood disorder, you don't need to shake a child, to get brain and retinal haemorrhages. Furthermore, certain infections can cause exactly those symptoms, and the infection needn't be a seemingly serious one, because babies can go from healthy to zero in a very short space of time.
Constant stimulation of the immune system by numerous provokers, can result in sub-clinical forms of scurvy which can also cause fragility in blood vessels; subdural haemorrhages and retinal haemorrhages. But everyone things that scurvy disappeared with James Cook. They are wrong. There is not just "scurvy" as doctors dismissively talk about. There are also many situations where people have sub-optimal scurvy, yet don't know it. Scury isn't an all (death) or nothing scenario. There are shades of severity in all medical conditions.
In today's developed country, there are considerable nutritional deficiency issues which are rarely talked about, and most parents have no idea about.
Yes, there are many questions with regard to Serenity's death.
If I were a parent of a baby like Serenity, with a condition alleged to be "similar to Shaken Baby Syndrome" and was being accused by the police of murder, and knew 100% that I didn't do it, and neither did anyone else, ... this is what I'd do:
1) Request a second private autopsy immediately, as well as directing that all samples be available for subsequent testing if asked. Obviously if there is to be a trial, no samples will be destroyed.
I would also NOT bury the baby's body, but have the body stored in such a way that tissues were viable for future testing.
(Nothing like burying the "evidence" and not being able to use it later!)
2) Request full copies of all hospital medical files including all the blood tests and everything else in that file, from the hospital. After all, if they are so sure, they will have no hesitation in providing all the information. I would also get copies of my pregnancy records, as well as birthing records and ALL medical and plunket records for the baby, from birth onwards. In short, a 100% complete file of everything known about myself and my baby and nothing less than that will do.
3) Then I would read it, to see what I could learn from it myself. I would take/send that information to another specialist willing to help, such as Dr Waney Squier, or Dr John Plunkett, who know that not all parents are liars, and that there are other reasons for what looks like SBS, and ask them to review all the files. (Tricky, becuase you are asking them to do something in their time, and most parents don't have any money to pay for a second opinion like this) This is the first question I'd ask:
What tests were not done on my baby, which might reveal an alternate diagnosis?
4) At the same time, I would contact Dr Terence Donald, a forensic paediatrician from Australia, and ask him to review all the records and ask the same question.
If the answer to the first question asked was no, THEN I would request the following:
5) That whichever hospital made the initial diagnosis, run those tests which were not done... AND that sample material also be released to allow another independant laboratory to also do those tests.
It's called keeping the accusers honest
If there is any allegation of "bone calluses" or suspected old fractures, I would ask that a sample of the alleged bone, be removed from the stored body, and examined forensically, under a microscope to look at the integrity of the bone structure, in particular to see whether it is actually a fracture; a healing fracture, or whether examination shows distorted bone matrix, Harris Lines, or any other clinical features of vitamin C deficiency, vitamin D deficiency or other abnormalities of the bone.
If you've buried or cremated the baby and samples weren't taken, you can do nothing.
Often, the problem with non-SBS cases is that the hospital puts the parents in a situation where it's difficult to prove your innocence.
Here's an example:
When a brain is removed from the skull for pathology examination, the very ACT of removal can cause what's called "shearing". Shearing is one sign looked for to determine if a brain has been shaken and torn as it moves back and forward. But removing a brain, also tears the tissue. So after the pathologist has removed the brain the question, "What caused the shearing?" cannot be answered UNLESS an MRI scan of the brain was done BEFORE the autopsy.
How many hospitals do MRI scans before autopsy?
That should be mandatory, but it's not. It's assumed that the medical profession know what they are talking about, when often what happens if that the staff have a theory and ONLY do the tests they want to prove the theory, ignoring all other possible causes.
And this is why worldwide, Shaken Baby Syndrome has become so contentious, even legally.
Parents and doctors are starting to look further than assumptions, and are finding that presumption of guilt from the outset, leads to narrow and sloppy medical (and legal) thinking.
Here are examples of questions to ask, which parents will not have though about:
Question: What would happen if all hospital born babies were given an MRI before the baby was discharged home?
More than ONE in FOUR babies would have the retinal and brain haemorrhages commonly considered to be Shaken Baby Syndrome. Yet no-one is doing those scans. And if they did, who in the hospital would be being investigated by the police for violently abusing 26% of hospital born babies?
On the autoposy report, you see that there are NO bone issues; no bruises; no soft tissue damage, yet you are accused of violently shaking or slamming a baby.
Question. Why then, is there NO neck damage to be seen? After all, you've been accused of violently shaking this baby's head, or slamming it on some surface, yet there is no soft tissue neck damage, or vertebral injury or spinal cord shearing? How could that be?
You know that your baby has been vigorously rescusitated at the hospital.
Question: Did anyone point out that rescuscitation in a baby can either cause what looks like SBS, or if the baby has ANOTHER reason for brain bleeding, can make it worse?
You look at the bacterial results and note that Strep Pneumo was noted, which is supposedly so common here, that's why the Prevnar vaccine was introduced for children...
Question: But did you know that Strep Pneumo can also cause retinal haemorrhages?
You note the presence of suspected bone calluses, or some other bone issues... but.... you don't know that Vitamin D deficiency in mothers is rife in New Zealand, particularly in Maori.
Question: Did you know that vitamin D-deficiency bone alterations can be mistaken for child abuse?
These are just a FEW of the many known issues written about in the medical literature, but here's the biggest problem for parents.
Parents are NEVER going to be shown this literature.
Parent's trust doctors.
Communities and the media believe these doctors.
Yet how mnay know that there is a huge body of alternate causes for what is known as Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Parents don't know the right questions to ask; who to go to, or what literature to track down, to prove their own innocence.
In that environment, sloppy medical practices, testing and ignoring differential diagnoses can result in a verdict of "guilty" given to innocent parents, because no-one knew the right questions to ask.
All of these issues are made worse by the fact most likely, no blood work is taken from both mother and baby to determin even a simple question like whether or not the mother and baby diad is suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, let alone other questions which should be asked but aren't.
And why is that important? Because vitamin D isn't just involved with bone integrity. It's also a key component of the inate immune system which prevents respiratory infections, and a whole raft of other conditions which a paediatric immunologist would have to admit can be prevented with vitamin D.
In New Zealand, a country recognised to be rampantly vitamin D deficient especially in pregnant women, not one mother is every told that they need to supplement. And even if they were told, the problem is that the current recommended dosage is grossly inadequate for both mother and baby.
There are so many more issues which could be discussed, but that would render this blog post a book.
The questions posed above, form only the tip of an informational-iceberg-fog hidden from the eyes of parents - who really should understand these,( and many more issues), from pregnancy on.
That they don't, is one major failing of the whole medical system.
And it's on that system's failure, that it's possible for innocent parents to be found guilty, and the equally as ignorant judgemental public and media to character assassinate parents who just might be innocent.
There have been many alleged SBS cases in this country where parents have actually been found INNOCENT, because medical experts brought in from overseas, have conclusively proven that New Zealand experts were wrong. Why don't we hear about those cases in the media?
Was Serenity murdered? I don't know.
If the family believe that none of the parties fingered, abused the children, then the questions which the family need answers to, are:
Did Starship really do due diligence, or did the presumption of guilt determine the limitations of the investigations?
If not, what can we do about getting all the stones looked under?
The problem for the family is that they don't know the questions to ask; the system won't help them do that; and worse, the system will never inform them that there is another side to this story.
The system only points the finger as they see fit.
And one size, always fits all, because parents are pathological liars according to them.