About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Syndrome: Screening on 29.2.16

There is to be a screening of a US documentary film called the Syndrome at 7pm on Monday 29th February 2016 at Whirled Cinema, 259 Hardess Street, London SE24 0HN (near to Loughborough Junction, Brixton & Herne Hill stations).


There is no charge to attend but donations of £10 would be welcome to cover the costs of the screening. Any ‘profit’ will be donated to the charity The Who Cares? Trust which supports children in care in the UK.

The film makers describe The Syndrome as “an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the US, is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist. Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with national award­winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted. The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”” You can read more about the film here

I am not personally promoting any of the film’s conclusions but it is an interesting topic which provokes much divided opinion and I am all for the scrutiny of today’s ‘medical certainties’.

If anyone is interested in attending do please let me (Jacqui Gilliatt) know by sending me an email or commenting on this post and please let colleagues know if you think they would be interested in coming. There is room for up to 70 people, a paying bar (normal pub prices) and a very decent pizza delivery place 10 metres away.

More About the Syndrome

What the critics have said:

“Terrific...I was glued to the screen from the first moment.” Academy Award­winning director Kieth Merrily

“..an eye­opening hybrid of medical drama and courtroom thriller” KCUR Kansas City Public Radio“..depicts shaken baby syndrome as a construct of junk science, injected into criminal proceedings with devastating results.“ Denver Westword

“The Syndrome makes a compelling case for questioning shaken baby charges.” World Magazine

“Riveting...one of the most important investigative reporting films of our time.” Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michelle Roberts“This is an astonishing documentary. Extremely well­reported and written. I was blown away.” Author of “The Spy’s Son” and Pulitzer Prize journalism finalist Bryan Denson

About the film:

The Syndrome (86 minutes) is based on years of research by national award­winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith. She has been reporting on child abuse since the 90s and won a 1998 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her coverage of abused and neglected children.

Audrey Edmunds, mother of three, spent 11 years in prison for killing a baby she never harmed. And she is not alone. What happens when widely held beliefs based on junk science lead to the convictions of innocent people? The Syndrome is an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the US, is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist. Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with national award­-winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted. The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” It unflinchingly identifies those who have built careers and profited from this theory along with revealing their shocking pasts. Shaken baby proponents are determined to silence their critics while an unthinkable number of lives are ruined.

Featured subjects:

Dr. Patrick Barnes is a Stanford Medical School professor of radiology and the chief of Pediatric Neuroradiology at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Barnes is the co­founder and member of both hospitals’ Child Abuse Task Force and the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team. Previously, Dr. Barnes taught at Harvard Medical School. He has published extensively about the neuroradiological imaging of child abuse and how the so­called “shaken baby syndrome” symptoms may be indicative of many different diseases and medical conditions.

Dr. John Plunkett is a forensic pathologist and specialist in child abuse and injury. Dr. Plunkett worked as a pathologist and director of education at what is now Minnesota’s Regina Medical Center in Hastings and spent nearly a decade as Hennepin County’s deputy medical examiner where his pathological findings and testimony were often used in court both for the prosecution and defense. Dr. Plunkett was one of the first physicians in the country to question the scientific validity of shaken baby syndrome. He has done groundbreaking, internationally recognized research on fatal pediatric head injuries caused by short distance falls. He and his wife live on a geriatric horse farm in rural Minnesota.



Professor Deborah Tuerkheimer is a law professor at Northwestern Law School in Chicago where she teaches and writes about criminal law, evidence and the intersection of law and science. Prior to Northwestern, Tuerkheimer was a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago. She is the author of “Flawed Convictions: Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Inertia of Justice,” which was published in 2014 by Oxford University Press. Prof. Tuerkheimer clerked for Alaska Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz and also worked as a domestic violence prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She received her undergraduate degree at Harvard College and her law degree from Yale.

Dr. Ronald Uscinski is a neurosurgeon and professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at Georgetown Medical School and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He treats patients at a number of D.C. area medical centers, including Georgetown University Hospital. A renowned critic of shaken baby syndrome, Dr. Uscinski’s mentor was Dr. Ayub Ommaya, a neurosurgeon and biomechanical engineer whose research was used as the scientific basis for the syndrome. Both doctors testified for the defense in the sensational Nanny Louise Woodward trial in Boston in 1997. Dr. Uscinski has published articles and made media appearances about the scientific problems with shaken baby syndrome since that trial. Dr. Uscinski is currently working in Germany providing neurological medical care to troops on an American military base.

Awards and Nominations:

Fan Favorite ­ (In)Justice For All Film Festival

Feature Film Special Recognition ­ (In)Justice For All Film Festival

Cultural Spirit Award ­ New Hope Film Festival

Bronze Plaque (Science and Technology) ­ Columbus Film Council

Jury Award Nominee ­ Kansas International Film Festival

Best Documentary Nominee ­ Long Island International Film Expo

Best Documentary Nominee ­ New Hope Film Festival

Artistic Spirit Award Nominee ­ New Hope Film Festival

Documentary Audience Award Runner Up ­ Twin Cities Film Festival