“The Syndrome” Promises Fireworks

Susan Goldsmith

Susan Goldsmith

“Shaken baby syndrome is the most mind-blowing story I have encountered in 26 years as a journalist,” says Susan Goldsmith, whose film The Syndrome has been nominated for a Jury Award at its premiere next month at the Kansas International Film Festival. “The deeper and deeper you go, the worse it gets.”

Even over the phone, Goldsmith crackles with the same energy that makes the trailer so compelling and no doubt earned the film its nomination. “When I found out how the promoters of the theory are trying to silence their critics,” she flares, “I knew I had to make this movie.”

She promises an “explosive” exposé, consistent with her web site’s report that the film “unflinchingly identifies those who have built careers and profited from this theory along with revealing their shocking pasts.”

Dr. John Plunkett

Dr. John Plunkett

The Syndrome profiles three of the most outspoken critics of shaking theory, forensic pathologist John Plunkett, pediatric neuroradiologist Pat Barnes, and neurosurgeon Ron Uscinski.

The film also features a few of the personal stories Goldsmith heard during years of research. “Those families, who have been ripped apart in so many ways, they keep me inspired,” Goldsmith insists. “If I was traumatized like that, I’d never want to talk about it, but you call them up, and all they want is to help get the word out.”

Dr. Charles Hyman, a critic of shaken baby theory, and Susan Goldsmith

Dr. Charles Hyman, a critic of shaken baby theory, and Susan Goldsmith

Goldsmith expects criticism from what she calls “the shaken baby industrial complex.”

“I’m used to being attacked,” she shrugs. “My job as an investigative reporter is to piss people off.”

Goldsmith has handled controversial stories before, including an article sympathetic to a convicted child molester—which later won a first-place award for crime and justice reporting—and a profile defending Nigerian anthropologist John Ogbu at UC Berkeley, tarred as a “Clarence Thomas” for his study of black high school students at an affluent Cleveland suburb. She’s often had trouble pitching her ideas, she concedes, “but I have never encountered the insane resistance I’ve seen to this story.”

Co-producer Meryl Goldsmith, Susan's cousin

Meryl Goldsmith

Goldsmith says that people seem to go “fuzzy in the head” when the words child abuse are used, “and that’s a very dangerous place for us to be in.” The same human instinct that fostered the shaken baby nightmare also made it nearly impossible to explain her conclusions, she sighs. “Over and over, people would just say, ‘They must be shaking them.'” Recognizing the resistance to their topic within the film industry, she and her cousin Meryl Goldsmith found their own funding and made their own movie.

I’m excited: The Syndrome could be a watershed in the history of shaken baby syndrome. I confess I had the same thought about Lee Scheier’s 2005 Chicago Tribune treatment, Emily Bazelon’s 2011 New York Times Magazine piece, the 2011 NPR/ProPublica/Frontline series, and Deborah Tuerkheimer’s 2014 book, but every bit of exposure helps bring the truth to light, and this film promises to be a high-wattage experience.

I knew Goldsmith subscribed to this blog, but she says in fact she’s a “religious reader” and she has “learned a tremendous amount” from it. I am gratified and encouraged.

The Syndrome premieres on Sunday, October 12, 12:15 pm at the Glenwood Arts Theater in Overland Park, Kansas. It will also be shown at the Twin Cities Film Fest, on October 24 & 25, buy tickets here.

For a sampling of Goldsmith’s work and awards, click on her tab on the film’s web site.

November 2015 Update: You can now host a screening of The Syndrome, http://www.resetfilms.com/hostascreening/

Copyright 2014, Sue Luttner

If you are not familiar with the debate surrounding shaken baby syndrome, please see the home page of this site.


Filed under abusive head trauma, AHT, parents accused, SBS, shaken baby syndrome

20 responses to ““The Syndrome” Promises Fireworks

  1. Susan Goldsmith

    Great work!

  2. Grandma

    You have a handful of “experts” paid and coached by slimy defense attorneys and you believe everything they say as opposed to the thousands of experts who prove them wrong? What kind of sense does that make? There are a FEW cases of misdiagnosis, a FEW. The fact is, no family believes their loved ones can do something like this, but it happens. SBS is very real, and if you don’t think your family member did it, the odds are you are wrong. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for violating children – BABIES – in this manner.

    • fresumi

      Any and all injuries whether intentional, accidental or diagnosed wrong of an child is awful. I am a grandmother also ma’am but I seriously doubt (and mind you I don’t know all the facts of your case) that thousands of experts were present pertaining to your case. On another note, I 100% agree with Mrs. Sue Luttner. She (from what I read about her online, and maybe you should do the same) wasn’t trying to get her Masters degree in forensics, pathology reports etc. Someone she knew was in a certain situation and she became interested in the case and did her own independent research. When Mrs. Luttner began investigating the subject of SBS and infant head trauma I’m sure she was going in with a open mind with no preconceived notions of the outcome of her research. I see no reason to be derogatory towards her.
      I am also in a similar situation dealing with the death of a child and I’ve been researching cause, symptoms, time lines mainly anything they’ll inform me of what’s going on and how could this have happened. The truth is letting people know that SBS isn’t as black or white or cut and dry as doctors or CPS caseworkers lead the public to believe. Anyone with a heart that possess empathy, sympathy or love cringes at the thought that someone could possibly intentionally hurt a child, but we should also be aware that every time a child is hurt doesn’t mean that someone caused it, or that it was intentional, or even that the last person that the child was with before the injury or illness was detected was the culprit or the perpetrator of said injuries or illness to that child. What if my neighbor asked me to babysit and unbeknownst to me, their child fell or was ill and the parent medicated the child right before they dropped their child off to me and almost immediately or even hours later this child either went to sleep and never woke up due to the fall that I knew nothing about or possibly the parent over medicated the child, then I call 911 the ambulance comes, helps the child come to but later the child dies at the Hospital. Should I be arrested for SBS? Or injury or murder of this child because he was in my care last although the parents knew their child had fell without my knowledge or over medicated their child again without my knowledge? Am I to go through CPS removing my children from my Home then face criminal charges and more than likely loose my freedom and also be put on a state list as a child abuser or child murderer for the rest of my life? Situations like this occur each and everyday ma’am. I’m sympathetic to both sides because one small circumstance can tilt the odds either way. I feel so sad for your grand Baby but I wouldn’t be so quick to throw blame one way or another.

  3. Grandma

    My grandson was 3 weeks old, had not had any vaccinations and had extensive brain damage to both the front and back of his brain, plus a right parietal skull fracture. Please make a pathetic attempt to explain that away. Also please explain away all the CONFESSIONS! You people are disgusting.

    • I am sorry to hear of your family’s tragedy. Please accept my condolences, and my best wishes for your grandson.

      If there was a skull fracture, this was a case of battering, not shaking.

      • Grandma

        You are wrong. For many babies, dead wrong. A handful of “experts” paid by defense attorneys don’t outweigh the tens of thousands of experts who see first hand what shaking a baby does. I also noticed you didn’t address the cases where there were confessions.

      • Of course shaking a baby is injurious. That does not mean that the brain injury, without other signs of assault, proves abuse. Other causes, so far, include stroke, sickle cell disease, various bleeding and metabolic disorders, and accidental injury. My objection is that parents of children with rare but legitimate medical conditions are being targeted as abusers.

    • SBS Mom

      My daughter was shaken at 4 months old. A confession was made. There was NO skull or other fractures. She had bleeding at the front & back of her brain which required emergency brain surgery. This documentary is disgusting. Dr Plunkett AKA Quack, along with these other highly paid “expert” witnesses continue to say different things on the stand each time they testify & use medical theories that are 150 years old and yet you say junk science is being used by the other side?! Makes no sense!

  4. Kathy Hyatt

    I truly believe that this is going to be a tool used to get many that are incarcerated freed!!! Meryl and Susan did a fantastic job!!! They are the voice I looked for for so long!!!! Brian, you are one I prayed for for a very long time! So glad you are free now!!!!

  5. Thank you, Susan and Dr. Hyman! Thank you to everyone who stands up to these people. I want to make a movie about our particular nightmare. The family I love is absolutely innocent, yet has had their child taken away by CPS and the court. It is ugly. It is wrong. And I am SO glad I am not the only one fighting! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Kind of surreal being out here with all of you after all the time I served due to this disgusting diagnosis. I want to thank so many of you for the support, the research, and the continuing work to debunk the “junk” science. While I’ll not see the film, I hope it helps others.

  7. Pingback: Sue Luttner’s interview with the filmaker of “The Syndrome” « falseallegationofchildabuse

  8. Ohio is a very logical site for a showing… or showings… of “The Syndrome,.”. given that Summit County (read Akron Children’s Hospital, Dr. Daryl Steiner) ranks so high in the Northwestern University national study on SBS cases. This is a landmark documentary which will draw many viewers. As a retired Ohio journalist, I’m willing to help in any way to promote this. Thank you Sue Luttner and Susan Goldsmith for what I imagine could be a life-changing experience for many, many people..

  9. How can we grab prosecutors and judges by the neck and force them to watch this and stop destroying innocent parents and their families? In most cases, just the accusation is itself a conviction, based on flawed and disproven and disavowed assumptions and sensationalized in the media by over-zealous law enforcement and CPS bigots looking for a conviction, not for the truth. The same could be said of the DA’s and prosecutors who seem blindly driven to convict someone/anyone for perceived harm to a child. And of course every jury feels the same – if a child was harmed, someone must have done it intentionally. Even though that does happen, it’s rarely true and never the result of SBS.
    Pierce County desperately needs this enlightenment. But the judges don’t consider themselves intellectually adequate to take the position of scientific, evidence based forensics versus obsolete, non-scientific theories in SBS. When will they ‘grow up’?
    Distribute this film as far and wide as possible. Stop the ”SBS-Industrial complex”!

    • fresumi

      OMG! Well said! Unfortunately my daughter is going through the trauma of being treated as though she’s guilty of a crime. I think that a lot of CPS caseworkers feel as though they have more power than judges or God. Once they get tunnel vision on a family it becomes a fight. It’s as though they can legally come into your home and kidnap your children and dare you to challenge their authority. Nowadays, only an accusation has to be made for CPS to enter into your home or lives and cause total devastation that affects your entire family for a lifetime. A lot of people aren’t even aware that an individual never has to be charged, arrested nor convicted of a crime of physically, mentally or sexually abusing a child and God forbid a child dies in order for a caseworker to find ‘reason ‘ to add your name to some sort of central registery list that basically accuses you of some sort of guilt that you’ve hurt or killed a child. So many people names have been put on this list because of unfounded, unproven accusations . The person name can be on this list anywhere from 5 to 99 years. Once it’s on this list good luck trying to have it removed because it’s Next to impossible. Due to a overzealous caseworker and whatever mood she/ he maybe in that day, they can make the decision to add your name to that list only because of one thing: they felt like it. Even with these SBS allegations there are so many variables that have been proven to cause head trauma to a child, yet once the doctor says a person caused it without even factoring in previous injuries, health, vaccinations, genetics etc., the diagnosis is wrongly made and innocent people go to prison.I haven’t seen a district attorney, prosprosecutor or CPS worker yet they’ll admit they made a mistake and jumped the gun instead of evaluating all the facts. I just pray to God that the situation my daughter is in does not result in the conviction of an innocent person…herself. I would love to see this movie. Anything that’ll shed light on this subject and prevent another innocent person from losing their freedom, family, career or hope, will be definitely needed and appreciated.

  10. Susan

    Keep us all posted on the film’s distribution. Great information!

  11. Linda kayes

    I wish it were playing here!

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