Saturday, 16 October 2010

SBS: Caffey

In a 1965 speech given by Dr. John Caffey upon receipt of the Howland Award, he expressed concern about the possibility of wrongful accusations: “There are many circumstances in which the parents are totally ignorant of the cause of their child’s injury and in which they do not and cannot give a history. The failure of the parents to give a history of injury is, therefore, not necessarily proof that the parent has willfully inflicted injury on the child.” Most trauma, he insisted, was accidental. Even short falls, he believed, could lead to subdural hematomas. “It cannot he emphasized too strongly,” he said, “that [medical symptoms] tell nothing of the person who abused the child or how it was abused.” (Journal of Pediatrics. 67:1008-1014)
Again in 1972, Dr. Caffey expressed concern that even the words "battered child" provoked and inflamed, sparking premature bias against parents before adequate medical and legal investigations could be concluded. He reiterated that medical findings cannot identify a perpetrator or his motive and was haunted by the possibility that innocent caretakers might be wrongly convicted. (Amer J Roentgen 114(2):218-229)
In other words, even Dr. Caffey expressed concerns similar to those now being dismissed as demagogues and "naysayers." One of the surest barriers to discovering new truth is believing you already have the whole truth. Not everyone with cirrhosis of the liver is alcoholic. Not everyone with lung cancer is a smoker. Not every child whose condition is unexplained has been abused.

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