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"Every generation has its quasi-religious orthodoxies ... " open letter to Guardian

sarah darwins

Senior Member
Messages
2,508
Location
Cornwall, UK
Not on ME/CFS, but an interesting case that is provoking some familiar argument.

The case is that of a British neuropathologist, Dr. Waney Squier, who has been struck off by the GMC for allegedly lying and giving misleading evidence in court cases involving shaken baby syndrome (SBS). Dr.Squier is skeptical about the syndrome and in particular about the triad of symptoms frequently used to 'diagnose' it.

It's obviously very controversial stuff. The GMC's contention is that her case was not about the science but about her conduct. Others disagree.

A number of people, including some American doctors in the field, have written an open letter in support of Dr. Squier which may interest people here. I have no idea how justified their criticisms are in this case but the language strikes some chords:

Every generation has its quasi-religious orthodoxies, and if there is one certainty in history it is that many beliefs that were firmly held yesterday will become the object of knowing ridicule tomorrow. Whether this will be the fate of SBS, time will tell. However, the case of Dr Squier follows another troubling pattern where the authorities inflict harsh punishment on those who fail to toe the establishment line.

It is a sad day for science when a 21st-century inquisition denies one doctor the freedom to question “mainstream” beliefs.

Letter: http://www.theguardian.com/society/...n-inquisition-by-striking-off-dr-waney-squier

News article: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...en-baby-syndrome-struck-off-misleading-courts
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,785
I was watching a BBC News documentary about the Dr Waney Squier case. At one stage she used to act as an expert witness for the prosecution in shaken baby syndrome cases; then she changed here views, and became an expert witness for the defense.

I think this is one of those stories where you would have do an enormous amount of background research before you could come to any conclusion about the rights and wrongs of this situation.
 

sarah darwins

Senior Member
Messages
2,508
Location
Cornwall, UK
I think this is one of those stories where you would have do an enormous amount of background research before you could come to any conclusion about the rights and wrongs of this situation.

You're absolutely right. I wouldn't dare voice an opinion on the case itself. It just struck me as raising some very interesting questions.
 

Hip

Senior Member
Messages
17,785
When I was watching the BBC documentary, the whole thing struck me as being between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand, shaken baby can cause terrible life long damage and disability to the infant. On the other hand, with medical diagnosis of shaken baby being far less than certain, you are bound to get some miscarriages of justice.

In the US there are around 1000 cases per year, but the figures are not precise.
 

sarah darwins

Senior Member
Messages
2,508
Location
Cornwall, UK
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/25/science-shaken-baby-syndrome

Here is a further letter from Clive Stafford Smith. "Science" just isn't working.

At the hearing, Dr Squier was specifically forbidden from contesting the central issue at stake – whether SBS is a legitimate diagnosis. Along with an increasing number of others close to the subject, I believe it to be an unproven hypothesis, not science. So does one of the people who came up with the theory 50 years ago, a doctor now horrified at how it is being abused. If we are right, then the people who mislead the court (albeit perhaps unintentionally) are those who purvey an unproven theory as fact.

This is why I created this thread in the first place. I feel there's a strong parallel with the somatoform illness hypothesis that plagues our lives. Doctors who go against the grain are treated as heretics (ask Sarah Myhill).
 

Chrisb

Senior Member
Messages
1,051
As this decision should be reversed on appeal perhaps some attention should be paid to an issue with more wide ranging implications. It is said that these proceedings were initiated because of the concerns of a number of anonymous judges.

It would appear that this means that judges disagreed with the verdicts of juries that the prosecution case had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Who knows? Perhaps the juries even ignored a strong steer from the judges in their directions. It is likely that the juries must have had a more instinctive grasp of their duties than the judges. It is doubtful if any case reliant solely upon such evidence could ever be said to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Those with long memories will remember the "reflex anal dilation" test of the Cleveland child abuse cases. As Hegel said, the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

One can only surmise that there are judges who think it better that one innocent person should be found guilty than that nine guilty ones be freed. But as many spent their early careers as prosecuting barristers perhaps we should not be surprised.