Re-evaluation of medical findings in alleged shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma in Norwegian courts fails to support abuse diagnoses
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionActa Paediatrica. 2021. 10.1111/apa.15956
Aim: The criteria for diagnosing abusive head trauma (AHT) are not well defined and this condition might be diagnosed on failing premises. Our aim was to review criminal AHT cases in Norwegian courts by scrutinising the underlying medical documentation. Methods: Cases were identified in the data registry for Norwegian courts from 2004 to 2015. Documentation was obtained from relevant health institutions. The medical co-authors first made independent evaluations of the documentation for each child, followed by a consensus evaluation. Results: A total of 17 children (11 boys) were identified, all diagnosed as AHT by court appointed experts, 15 were infants (mean age 2.6 months). A high proportion (41.2%) was born to immigrant parents and 31.3% were premature. The medical findings could be explained by alternative diagnoses in 16 of the 17 children; 8 boys (7 infants – mean age 2.9 months) had clinical and radiological characteristics compatible with external hydrocephalus complicated by chronic subdural haematoma. Six children (five infants with mean age 2.1 months) had a female preponderance and findings compatible with hypoxic ischaemic insults. Conclusion: The medical condition in most children had not necessarily been caused by shaking or direct impact, as was originally concluded by the court experts.