From the July 2004 Idaho Observer:
Victimized by a theory: The Shaken Baby Syndrome farce
by Lisa Mullenax
From Happiness to Tragedy
On May 16, 2002, my husband Alejandro and I were blessed with a tiny miracle. We named him Lucas, which means light, and he truly was. He brought us more joy and happiness than we had ever known. We knew his every breath and constantly doted on him during his brief three-and-a-half- month life here on earth.
Alejandro and I were grateful to have a healthy baby, especially considering that it was my health that had been called in to question during my pregnancy. Lucas was constantly attended to and nurtured since my husband and I were determined to take advantage of every moment we were given to be with our beloved son. We loved our precious angel more than anything in the world and thanked God for gifting us with our beautiful, healthy child.
Originally, Alejandro and I had planned to reside in his country of origin, Costa Rica, however that soon changed. During my pregnancy I was erroneously diagnosed with cancer. Due to familial concerns regarding the quality of health care in his country, we decided it would be best to stay in the U.S. for a few years until my medical condition could be resolved. As a result, Alejandro left his family, country and career of 10 years in order to begin a new life with Lucas and I in Pennsylvania. We agreed that I would continue teaching while he stayed home to care for our newborn son.
Alejandro's dream had always been to have a son and he anxiously awaited Lucas' arrival. It was for Lucas and I that he willingly left loved ones, security and everything he had ever known behind, looking forward to our future together as a loving family.
Everyone who saw Lucas, including his pediatricians, always commented on what a big healthy baby he was. His weight, length and head circumference all fell within the 95th percentile. At his well baby check-ups, we were constantly assured that he was a healthy baby; but, unfortunately, this was not the case.
Tragically, on August 27, 2002, approximately 40 minutes after I had left our home for a meeting at the school where I taught, Lucas stopped breathing while in Alejandro's care. Alejandro immediately took Lucas to the home of a neighbor who called 911. The ambulance doors were slammed in my husband's face as emergency medical technicians proceeded to whisk our baby Lucas to the local hospital. Alejandro had no alternative other than to stay behind as the police interrogated him about what had just transpired. Beside himself with concern and dealing with a language barrier in rural Pennsylvania, Alejandro, whose primary language is Spanish, fully cooperated with the police.
A neighbor came to the school to inform me as to what just happened. Minutes later I arrived at our home with the intention of driving Alejandro to the hospital with me. I was then informed by a police officer that he was not permitted to go anywhere and had to stay behind for questioning. Torn, broken hearted, and confused, I left for the hospital while my husband was forced to stay behind not knowing the condition of our son.
Accusations From the Start
When I arrived at the hospital, there were numerous police officers staring at me. Needless to say I was shocked by the accusatory glares of the police and medical personnel. The entire scenario was surreal. Shortly following my arrival, Alejandro was escorted to the hospital by the police and, upon arriving, the treating physician promptly isolated me from him as he refused to discuss Lucas' condition in Alejandro's presence. Afterwards, we were both permitted to see our precious son.
The aforementioned physician then proceeded to inform me that he believed our son had been abused. I pled with him to investigate the true causes of our son's injuries, however all of my pleas were immediately dismissed and Children's Youth Services was contacted. Bewilderment came upon me as Alejandro and I had just been with Lucas a few minutes prior and he looked normal. There was clearly no evidence of external injuries and the allegations were completely absurd. How could this physician render a diagnosis with potential criminal ramifications when he had only examined our son for approximately 15 minutes? In fact, I had been misdiagnosed by this very same hospital two times prior to this incident and by this very same physician!
Lucas was then life-flighted to a second hospital a few hours away. After arriving there, my husband and I were forbidden to see our son. There was absolutely no medical necessity requiring us to be sequestered from him, and we didn't understand what was transpiring.
The doctors there concurred with the diagnosis proffered at the first hospital; they suspected that we had violently shaken our son. Even in the absence of external injuries, the cardiologist had the audacity to inquire as to whether we had dropped Lucas from a second story window! Since we knew we were innocent of wrongdoing, we didn't understand why we were being treated with contempt and suspicion. We were impatient with these unnecessary delays and irritated by the hospital staff's lack of common sense. What mattered most to us was to be with our precious Baby Lucas who was now laying in a coma.
Frustrated with the system
My parents, family members and colleagues witnessed the medical staff's treatment of us in the hospital. These family members and friends were just as flabbergasted over how we were being treated. In less than two hours following Lucas's admission to the first hospital, the authorities had revoked our custody of Lucas on the basis that he had subdural and retinal hemorrhaging in addition to an alleged rib fracture. Due to these findings the physicians claimed that Lucas had been violently shaken and they made the ominous diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome or SBS.
Amidst our grief, rather than facilitating our bereavement and shock, we were immediately blamed for his condition yet not criminally charged with anything. The physicians would not look at my husband nor speak with him; many refused to answer my questions. Alejandro and I were only permitted to be with Lucas when we were under supervision (which was difficult to obtain) and we were treated as if we were criminals. Never in our lives before had we experienced such mistreatment at the hands of professionals.
Rushed SBS diagnosis
Lucas was dearly loved and protected; he was never abused. Anyone who ever saw us with him can attest to this simple fact. The attending physicians at Geisinger Medical Hospital in Danville, PA, did absolutely nothing to search for the true causes of our son's medical condition. Although the medical establishment is well aware of numerous other factors causing these same symptoms, there was a failure on behalf of the treating physicians to perform differential diagnosis.
All further diagnostic testing ceased at the instruction of an attending physician who claimed that child abuse is his area of expertise. Due to his assumptions, Alejandro and I had no hope of finding out what truly happened to Lucas as long as he remained in that facility. As opposed to our being treated with dignity and respect, these professionals did not facilitate or even acknowledge our grief. By pre-judging us, having biased conclusions, and failing to perform differential diagnoses, the same medical professionals were not only negligent in their duties, but they were also committing malpractice.
A second opinion
Following our son's death on September 2, 2002, Alejandro and I requested that Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati review Lucas's case, as we wanted to know the true cause of his death. This highly respected toxicologist and pathologist conducted a thorough investigation into the true causes of our son's death, which led him to some startling discoveries. His extensive report was recently posted on the internet during an SBS Conference co-hosted by Nicholas Regush and Sandy Mintz on www.redflagsweekly.com. The evidence produced in this report indicates that shaking was not the cause of our baby's death. Dr. Al-Bayati believes Lucas died as a result of adverse reactions to vaccines and medications.
Other renowned physicians have independently reviewed our son's medical records. Their interpretation of the evidence concurs with Dr. Al-Bayati's findings.
Taking a new look at SBS
In recent years experts in toxicology, ophthalmology, neuropathology, neurology, forensic pathology and biomechanics have been disputing the SBS theory. An increasing number of scientific and medical experts have concluded that the SBS theory has not been borne out of current scientific evidence but, instead, is based solely upon assumptions. As a result of this junk-science, numerous innocent caretakers and parents have been wrongly convicted and incarcerated for crimes that never occurred. While I have no doubt that child abuse sadly does occur, it is imperative that claims of SBS be substantiated by sound evidence, not simply alleged on the basis of a theory that is lacking in both scientific and medical evidence.
We also must wonder why innocent people around the world are being wrongly accused and persecuted when there is an ongoing debate within the medical community regarding the current SBS diagnosis.
Where we are now
Following the doctors' diagnosis of SBS, Alejandro and I were both listed as perpetrators on the Childline Abuse Registry. The police conducted their investigation for almost a year and to our further horror we continued to be the primary suspects of their investigation.
In August of 2003, 11 ½ months following the death of our precious angel, a SWAT team of approximately 15 armed police and detectives surrounded my parents' house with guns drawn and pointed at us while they proceeded to arrest my husband. Before Alejandro's indictment, our attorney requested that we be permitted to turn ourselves in to the authorities in the event that an arrest would be made; however the State refused to comply with this simple request.
Our lives have radically changed since this nightmare began. As a result of these false accusations, Alejandro and I have lost our home, our savings, our careers and our reputations because we were accused by the medical establishment of having killed our precious baby. The police confiscated numerous sentimental objects, our computer, mattress, and even personal items such as my underwear -- all to use as supposed evidence!
My husband is currently incarcerated due to incompetent physicians and blatant medical malpractice. He has now been charged with 1st and 3rd degree murder. He has been incarcerated for 11 months to date and still has no trial date has been scheduled.
The Consulate of Costa Rica has even pledged its assistance by procuring the medical experts' plane fares that will defend him, which is not typical by any means. Alejandro has garnered the support of his government as they have been provided with medical reports that clearly show Alejandro's innocence and Lucas's underlying medical condition as the true and tragic cause of his death.
Facing the Death Penalty
Despite Alejandro's provable innocence, the District Attorney of Centre County, PA, Ray Gricar, is seeking the death penalty.
My husband is a non-violent man with no prior criminal record! Although Mr. Gricar is aware of the disputing toxicology/pathology reports, this new evidence has not influenced his resolve to convict an innocent man of a crime that never occurred. It appears that truth and justice are not cornerstones of the American justice system in Centre County, PA.
Exposing the SBS Myth
The current heated debate on the British Medical Journal website is a clear example of the lack of science behind a rushed SBS diagnosis. In most cases medical records are seldom evaluated to rule out other causes for subdural and retinal hemorrhaging, brain edema, and hairline fracturing of bones. In our lonely battle I am deeply sympathetic to the unknown numbers of parents and caretakers who are innocent, but who have been wrongly accused and incarcerated for alleged SBS crimes.
The public at large needs to be made aware of the present curable SBS epidemic before other innocent families are destroyed and divided as a result of false allegations of abuse.
How many prisoners in your state have been convicted of SBS when they have maintained their innocence from the beginning?
Devastating accusations will continue to destroy other innocent people's lives if the medical establishment continues to refuse to perform differential diagnoses once mention of Shaken Baby Syndrome is made. We are asking for your assistance in exposing this witch-hunt, as ours is not by any means an isolated incident.
The SBS epidemic has become a national crisis as thousands of innocent people are wrongly accused and often convicted by these false allegations. At present, children are being maimed, murdered, or permanently damaged by pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, and iatrogenic (doctor-induced) injuries coupled with malnutrition. This problem is further compounded by the dogmatic training of the medical and legal professionals.
Our society has an obligation to its citizens to put an end to these tragic miscarriages of justice. To persecute innocent people on the basis of a theory is barbaric and a sad reflection of a broken judicial system.
Alejandro Mendez has been incarcerated at the Centre County Jail for nearly a year with no trial date set as of this writing. To find out more about this case, go to www.freemendez.org.