On 29th February I hosted a screening of a powerful US documentary about shaking baby: The Syndrome. The audience comprised a number of family lawyers, criminal lawyers, parents, bloggers & website authors, a documentary maker and doctors. The film tells the story of the development of the theory that there is such a syndrome as ‘shaken baby’ moving on to doubts creeping in post the Louise Woodward trial, experts carrying out new research and examining the theory critically and an almighty row breaking out between the syndrome advocates and the doubters. Quite apart from the science stuff which is fascinating in itself, the account of the rift in the medical establishment exposes the all-too human tendency of having to be right. The anti-syndrome advocates also point to the financial threat which any undermining of the theory poses to those who have built businesses / research bodies which depend on the syndrome existing and the behaviours exhibited towards them by syndrome advocates is unedifying to say the least. Derisory songs are sung at conferences, Plunkett is charged with perjury (and acquitted) for giving evidence that to the best of his knowledge he had never testified in the same case as another expert (turned out he had but he had not realised as he had flown in and out to give his evidence and she had come in by video link on a separate day). Syndrome advocates are caught out asserting that it is better for child protection to assume without a proper evidence base. This sort of behaviour only polarises the debate further, pushing the sceptics into having to defend their own corners and livelihoods when what is clearly needed is open debate and open minds.
I will be organising a second screening at some point and more of an event / debate around it but the film is available for screenings in the UK from the makers – Reset Films – so if anyone else wants to give the film the oxygen of publicity which it richly deserves, just go ahead and ask them!