Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. A. Norman Guthkelch was the first person to propose in print, in the British Medical Journal in 1971, that shaking an infant could cause subdural hematoma. He is now trying to straighten out what he considers a “horrifying misinterpretation” of his work.
Dr. Guthkelch was invited to address accused families at the 2013 conference sponsored by the Evidence Based Medicine and Social Investigation Group (EBMSI), a coalition of parents who have survived false accusations and now offer help to the newly accused. His health prevented him from traveling, so we conducted a series of conversations, which I edited into a 22-minute video to show at the conference.
For a profile of Dr. Guthkelch, please see this blog posting from the winter of 2013.
August 2016 update: Dr. Guthkelch died quietly at home on July 28, 2016. I posted this obituary.
To view the videotape we made for the 2013 EBMSI conference, please click the image below:
copyright 2014, Sue Luttner
If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this blog site.
5 responses to “Conversations With Dr. A. Norman Guthkelch”
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Good journalism, Sue. Thank you for preserving this for posterity.
I personally met with Dr. Guthkelch at his residence in 2012 after the Shaken Baby Conference in Boston. I found him to be delightful, kind, thoughtful, intelligent and helpful. We had discussion about both the particular case in which I am involved, and about Shaken Baby Theory in general. He expressed to me considerable regret that his open hypothesizing many years ago — that PERHAPS one possible explanation for children presenting to the hospitals in Great Britain with subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages MIGHT in some cases be the British custom of shaking children as a form of discipline — somehow became transformed into what is at present an almost certain diagnosis of shaking whenever a baby or child presents to a hospital with a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages, as if there can now no longer be any other possible explanation.
It is ludicrous and highly unscientific to hold that the mere existence of two medical symptoms, regardless of any differences in their specific characteristics and times of appearance, are 100% diagnostic in all cases of HOW those symptoms came into existence. Some hematomas are small. Some are large. Some have membranes or partial membranes around them. Some don’t. They are in different locations in the head and of different ages. The blood of the different patients has different chemical characteristics, such as acidity or alkalinity, sugar level, white blood cell level, globulin level, vitamin C level, etc. Some have high blood sugar and a low white blood cell count. Others may have the opposite. The different cases may also have contributing health factors that may have impacted the formation of the very hematomas under discussion.
Same with retinal hemorrhages. They may be small or large, many or few, old or new and still bleeding. Their locations will be in different places. They may be on the same side of the head as the hematoma or on the opposite side of the head. Or they may be in both eyes. They may be located in different places in the eye or in the nerve behind the eye. They may be found before or after surgery, and before or after attempts at resuscitation. They may be found the day after the threshold pressure is raised or lowered in the draining mechanism placed into the head of a baby after surgery. Diagnosis should not be as simple as, “Gee. There are retinal hemorrhages. You shook your baby!”
It is highly irresponsible to rely purely on the existence of these symptoms without investigating all the facts surrounding the appearance of the symptoms. Was the child sick with an infection previous to becoming symptomatic? What do the child’s blood numbers say? What about his weight/height chart? Did he have any allergic reaction to medications, foods or — yes, I’ll say it, vaccines? Does he have an enzyme missing from his body? Does he have some unusual condition inherited from his parents which somehow predisposed him to bleed as he did?
Are there any marks on the outside of the child’s body to indicate the tight grabbing and holding firmly enough to really shake a baby hard? Is there any external evidence of a slamming impact? Does the child’s spinal column show any extreme distention in the neck area? Is there any reason to believe that the child was abused, other than the mere existence of a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhages?
Many people add brain swelling as a third symptom of a triad, but the problem with this is that these are NOT independent symptoms. They are actually all related. Bleeding causes increased pressure in the head, which causes brain swelling, which puts pressure on the eyes, which may cause retinal hemorrhages.
And what about the facts surrounding the appearance of the symptoms? Does the family use drugs? Do they engage in family violence? Has any neighbor heard an uncontrollably screaming baby? Were the parents financially OK? Did they WANT the child who was born to them? Did they have support for babysitting from grandparents and other extended family?
In the particular case in which I am involved, the baby in question was a particularly happy baby. A good baby. I NEVER heard him scream, ever! No one in his family used drugs, and they still don’t. There is no family violence in the family, NONE! The family is hard working, and not on government welfare. Mother and Dad at the time the baby became symptomatic were doing just fine. They had enough money. They were happy. They WANTED their baby. They didn’t have any anger management issues.
Yet County counsel led with the conclusion that the baby was shaken because of the mere presence of the symptoms. So from there she ASSUMED that the baby must have screamed and was shaken by a frustrated, tense father who could not make ends meet and had gotten into trouble by accident and did not want his baby and was having trouble with his relationship with the baby’s mother. County counsel made all these comments in Court for the judge to hear and consider as if they were facts and not conjecture. The SADDEST thing about this was that the mother’s lawyer, who had been hired and was a private lawyer, said NOTHING to counter these completely false allegations. It is because of all the lies which were allowed to pass without objection, in combination with the false diagnosis of shaken baby, that this child has been permanently taken away from his completely innocent parents AND grandparents. Yet there are no convictions or any evidence that any family member “shook” this child.
It was all done on conjecture and comment by the social workers and County counsel, but it is based on the erroneous foundation of a “finding” of shaken baby by a judge whose experience and education is about law, not science. Perhaps he was taking what seemed like a safe path, ruling that the child was “severely and intentionally abused,” while at the same time suggesting in the Court transcript that perhaps the parents didn’t really realize what they were doing, “because even a gentle shaking can cause these sorts of problems.” WHERE DID HE GET THAT IDEA? And if he does believe what he said, why did he find the child a victim of “severe and intentional abuse,” if he accepts that gentle shaking can cause the symptoms?
And all this because of the predominance of the politically correct, but scientifically inaccurate, hypothesis of shaken baby.
This is a problem that needs to be solved.
Tissue Scurvy Misdiagnosed
Michael D Innis MBBS;DTM&H;FRCPA;FRCPath
Princess Alexandra Hospital
Key Words Autoimmunity, Tissue Scurvy. Encephalomyelitis, Non-accidental Injury, Shaken Baby Syndrome
Requests from distressed parents and relatives seeking help after having been accused of injuring their children are not uncommon. Viral and parasitic infections and vaccines cause an autoimmune disorder, Tissue Scurvy, misdiagnosed as child abuse, and this report presents the evidence.
Method. Relevant hospital and laboratory reports of three children were examined for evidence of Tissue Scurvy as the cause of the neurological lesions, fractures, bruises and haemorrhages found on them.
Results. In all the cases in which appropriate histories and tests were done there was evidence that the laboratory evidence was ignored or doctors were unaware of the significance of abnormal tests suggesting Tissue Scurvy as the cause of the problems.
Conclusion. Tissue Scurvy, absence of Vitamin C within the cell in the body, is an autoimmune reaction resulting in extensive lesions misdiagnosed as Non-accidental Injury.
I totally agree with Dr Innis that injuries described as shaken baby syndrome are caused by immunological injuries such as vaccines are known to cause. This has been documented in innumerable medical research papers published in reputable medical and scientific journals.
I personally was asked for and prepared more than 100 expert reporrts for SBS cases. In all cases the victims were vaccinated shortly before developing the signs erroneously considered pathognomic of SBS.
BMJ.com has published innumerable rapid responses for more than two decades. Where were the proponets of SBS all that time while the innocent parents were imprisoned and their other children taken away from them?
There could hardly be imagined a worse scenario than innocent people being accused of and convicted for the crime someone else has committed.