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The doctor who says questionable science helps child abusers go free


– My name is John Leventhal, and I’m a professor of pediatrics
at Yale Medical School, and over the last 36 years, unfortunately, I’ve seen hundreds of children
where there are concerns about abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse. In our hospital, if there’s
a suspicion of abuse, either I or one of my colleagues
on my team gets called, and our job is to help
evaluate what’s going on. We have to take a detailed
history from the family. We have to do a very
careful exam of the child, collect laboratory data,
collect radiographic studies, MRIs, CTs, whatever’s relevant, and then have to make a determination of whether we think abuse has occurred. Often, these children are very young, less than a year or two, so, they can’t provide any history, and we have to rely on the information that’s provided to us by the parents, maybe by Child Protective Services when they go out to the
home to investigate, or the police, and then coming together to try to make a specific diagnosis. We meet weekly and review all our cases. We review them with a team of people, including social workers, doctors, sometimes Child Protective Service people, and then, we have a second review where only the physicians meet to review, ’cause we wanna make
sure we get this right. (typing) So, I wrote the commentary piece in the Journal of the
American Medical Association, also called JAMA, because
I had been involved with cases of child
abuse where I was pretty, I was very certain that
the child was abused. These were often very young children, and experts were testifying for the parents or for the accused, and sometimes they came and testified about theories that had
no scientific background. If these theories are believed, then someone may be found innocent when in fact they’re guilty, and the child may be returned home in the child protection court when the child’s safety may be at risk. The diagnoses were things like epilepsy, or vitamin D deficiency, or
EDS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and they had never been described to result in the injuries
that this child had, so, how were those legitimate to explain what I was seeing and the
injuries of the child? So, Ehlers-Danlos
syndrome, also called EDS, it affects the connective tissue which supports part of our bodies. So, it affects the skin. It affects the joints and
makes them very loose, and so, people can bend their joints way out of shape or out of line. In adults, it can affect
their bone strength, so, it’s an important disease
because it has consequences to the people who are affected. It’s a rare disease. Maybe there are about 60,000 people in the United States with it, and maybe about 1,000 infants
would have the disease of the four million infants in the United States at any one time. There have been a lot of articles written about
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and there’s been no description of children or infants with fractures until Dr. Holick published
one about a year ago, and in that publication,
he described 72 infants, 67 of whom he said had
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and they were all very young, all less than 40 weeks of age, and the average age was about
two and a half, three months. So, very small babies. At least one of the major variants of EDS does not have a
genetic test available, and so, that makes it complicated
to make the diagnosis. It’s made on clinical grounds, and that means that one has to follow the clinical guidelines that geneticists use to
make the correct diagnosis, and if we’re talking about the flexibility of someone’s joints, well, all babies have flexible joints, so, it may be much more complicated to diagnose in an infant compared to a 10-year-old or 25-year-old. Some of the experts who put forth theories that are questionable work at major academic institutions, and I would like to see the heads of the medical center, or the dean, or the president of the
university take a step to do something about that. Well, it’d be nice to have
some scientific background to support the unproven or
fallacious hypotheses put forth, but that’s not stopping people right now.

2 Comments

  1. Overonator
    Overonator September 26, 2018

    Needs a genetic test to help lower the uncertainty.

  2. Justin Riley
    Justin Riley October 1, 2018

    @Pro Publica your videos are WILDLY underrated. The quality of video, audio and general content is incredible and yet your videos have unbelievably low view counts. Truthful, thorough and downright interesting journalism is alive and well, and you're the frontrunner of it

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