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Forensic Friday Seminar Explores Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), known as abusive head trauma in the pediatric community, is the most common cause of death from physical child abuse in the United States. As an investigative and legal matter, however, it hasn't always been clearly understood or carefully applied, proving an often-unreliable basis for criminal convictions.

Duquesne University's Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law will conclude this semester's Forensic Fridays series with What is "Shaken Baby Syndrome?" on Friday, May 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom.

Co-sponsored by the Duquesne University Schools of Law and Nursing and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the daylong seminar will explore the scientific, legal and investigative issues underlying this widely used but mostly misunderstood term.

"Relied upon for decades as a medical diagnosis and as a subsequent basis for child abuse and homicide prosecutions, Shaken Baby Syndrome has come under fire in recent years as the science behind the diagnosis has attracted greater scrutiny," said Ben Wecht, program administrator for the institute.
"Now linked to a handful of wrongful convictions, SBS is an important topic for consideration in the context of forensic scientific and legal education."

Panelists at the seminar include:

  • Dr. Rachel Berger, director of child abuse research, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Dr. Michael Bell, director of the Pediatric Neurotrauma Center, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Dr. Ellen Mitchell, Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Dr. Ashok Panigraphy, radiologist-in-chief, Department of Pediatric Radiology, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Tim Rush, homicide detective, Pittsburgh Police
  • Dr. Cyril Wecht, forensic pathologist
  • Barbara Jollie, Westmoreland County assistant district attorney
  • Judith Petrush, Westmoreland County assistant district attorney
  • Lisa Middleman, Allegheny County public defender
  • Rhiannon Sisk, Allegheny County public defender.

Duquesne University's Jane Moriarty, professor of law, and Dr. Kathleen Sekula, associate professor nursing, will moderate panel discussions at the event.

The seminar is approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for five (5) hours of Substantive credit and one (1) hour of Ethics credit. ACT 48 credits and continuing nursing education will also be available. Call 412.396.1330, email wechtinstitute@duq.edu or visit www.duq.edu/forensics/forensic-fridays for more information and to register.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.