A group representing 1,800 pediatricians has banned together to call on Governor Charlie Baker to launch a review of the state medical examiner's office. More specifically, they want to know how that office determines whether a child died from this kind of abuse. Many of us were first introduced to the idea of Shaken Baby Syndrome back in 1997, during the trial of Louise Woodward, the 18-year-old British au pair who was charged with second-degree in the death of eight-month-old Matthew Eappen. The charge was later reduced to involuntary manslaughter.

But since that trial, a lot of questions have been raised about the science behind the Shaken Baby diagnosis. And just this past year, the medical examiner changed homicides rulings in three different cases of child deaths. In two of those cases, prosecutors dropped murder charges. 

Former Attorney General Martha Coakley (@marthacoakley), who prosecuted the Louise Woodward case, and defense attorney J.W. Carney, who's represented two of three people charged in those most recent cases, joined Jim on Monday night to debate whether medical examiners and prosecutors embrace Shaken Baby Syndrome far too often.

Coakley was critical of the medical examiners and doctors in these cases. She said that, "in the last 20 years, when the science has been evolving and when new prosecutors have come in, and doctors are not aware and medical examiners are not trained in what they need to know to identify the symptoms and the syndrome of Shaken Baby."

Carney argued that "the science is catching up to the medicine," in these cases. He explained that a human being cannot generate the amount of force to cause this type of injury. "It's very significant that the medical community stopped calling it Shaken Baby Syndrome," he said. "They call it abusive head trauma because what the science shows, is that in order for the child to suffer traumatic brain injury being shaken, the child at some point has to come in contact with something so that the head stops suddenly." Coakley agreed with Carney's point on brain trauma. "That has been true since I did the cases in the late 90's," she said. "It's shaking and slamming." 

However, they disagreed on the issue of medical examiners. Coakley referred to 15 to 20 people as making a cottage industry out of attacking the diagnosis. "Kids do not die for no reason. And shouldn't we wonder why the babies died?" She also stated that the medical examiners office "does not have the training to make the right conclusions." Carney disagreed:

"You don't go to a heart surgeon if you want a diagnosis about a foot injury," he said. "That means you do not go to a pediatrician to determine the cause of death of an infant. A pediatrician simply takes case of children who are alive. A medical examiner is a pathologist. He or she has had advanced training to determine what is the manner and cause of death."

What do you think? Do medical examiners and prosecutors embrace Shaken Baby Syndrome too often?