3News Investigates: Science behind shaken baby cases under attack

By Phil Trexler, Rachel Polansky (WKYC), WKYC
Posted 2/24/2020

AKRON, Ohio — When Dan and Lee-Ann Dunkle look at their daughter, they see a soaring athletic teen, an honor roll scholar.

They certainly don’t see a victim of shaken baby syndrome.

But once upon a time, that's all doctors saw.

Turns out, those doctors were dead wrong.

Despite the passing years, the sting of that failed diagnosis isn't soothed. Instead, tearful memories flood a mother's thoughts.

"I couldn't take my kid home. They said I would be arrested if I did. And that's when we were like, wait a minute, what's going on here."

She soon learned.

The Dunkles were at Akron Children's Hospital, where renowned pediatric doctor Daryl Steiner was uncovering case after case of shaken baby syndrome.

Reached by phone, Dr. Steiner told 3News Investigates: “I’m retired and I’ve forgotten everything prior to 2016.”

Today, shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma is a hotly debated diagnosis, both in the medical and the legal communities.

More than 200 criminal cases are unraveling across the nation since 2001, according to an extensive study by the Washington Post and journalism students at Northwestern University.

Over 1,600 cases, however, were left intact, leaving others to make pleas of innocence from behind bars.

"There are definitely people serving long sentences, life sentences, for what I believe is bad science and bad medicine,” said Akron attorney Andrea Whitaker, who has defended about 10 shaken baby cases, including the Dunkles.

"There's no question in my mind that there are innocent people in prison from the misdiagnosis.”

(click the article link below to visit the WKYC site and read the rest of the article)