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Activity Number: 162 - SPEED: Government Statistics, Health Policy, and Marketing
Type: Contributed
Date/Time: Monday, July 31, 2017 : 10:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Sponsor: Health Policy Statistics Section
Abstract #323819 View Presentation
Title: Child Abuse on Trial: a Statistical Analysis of Shaken Baby Syndrome
Author(s): Maria Cuellar*
Companies: Carnegie Mellon University
Keywords: attribution ; causes of effects ; shaken baby syndrome ; child abuse ; causality ; statistics and the law

Over 1000 individuals in the United States are in prison today on charges related to the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), a form of child abuse that results in traumatic brain injury. A heated debate among researchers is ongoing: One group argues that it is almost always possible to determine whether abuse caused a child's head trauma, and another group disagrees. To shed light on this debate, I propose the usage of the Causes of Effects framework to evaluate causal statements made in medicine and the law. Expert witnesses and attorneys often ask questions about Effects of Causes (EoC), which are more appropriate for scientific discovery; however, in legal settings the relevant questions are about Causes of Effects (CoE). CoE allows one to evaluate how likely it is that a child's injuries are attributable to abuse. However, the data on SBS violates many of the assumptions necessary for an CoE analysis. Therefore, I suggest that the causal arguments made about SBS are too weak to prove abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, possibly many of the arguments used to convict individuals were incorrect, and this has caused numerous wrongful convictions.

Authors who are presenting talks have a * after their name.

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