Baby Alan Die of Shaken Baby Syndrome?
by Harold E. Buttram, MD
(An edited version of a talk given at the February 16, 2002 fund-raiser to free Alan Yurko)
Contributing editor, Peter G. Tocci, BA, MT
Yurko has been incarcerated since he was arrested and jailed in November,
1997 for causing the death of his infant son, Alan, by what is known
as shaken baby syndrome (SBS). In Februray, 1999, he was convicted and
imprisoned for life, without parole. Very strong evidence has since
arisen that medical misdiagnosis brought the jury conviction, and an
appeal has been filed. The story will be profiled here, but first, some
pertinent information about immune function.
Brief Look at Immunity
medical journals state that in healthy people, there is a "bias"
toward cellular immunity, while people with allergies, asthma, and autoimmune
diseases have immune response "skewed" toward the humoral. There
is now significant evidence suggesting that vaccines disturb immune balance,
thereby contributing profoundly to allergy and other illness, and to their
current, alarming increase, especially in infants and children. Dr. H.
H. Fudenburg, a world renowned immunologist with hundreds of publications
to his credit, made the following comments: "One vaccine decreases
cell-mediated immunity by 50%, two vaccines by 70% . . . all triple vaccines
(such as MMR, DTaP) markedly impair cell-mediated immunity, which predisposes
to recurrent viral infections, especially otitis media, as well as yeast
and fungi infections."
Ominous Health Trend
1999, full realization of this adverse health trend hit me with a severe
jolt. Were vaccines playing a significant role here? While in this frame
of mind, I received my first letter from Alan Yurko. It seems my thoughts
and experiences had "set me up" for his letter, because, on
the first reading, a sense of great injustice overwhelmed me. I suspected
that studying baby Alan's medical records would reveal the facts of injustice.
That review largely confirmed for me that death occurred in a delayed
manner following a combination of vaccines--violence of a different order.
Reign of Terror
The ominous suggestion follows that if a large portion of SBS accusations and convictions are the result of subsequent misdiagnosis, we are witnessing a rapidly growing reign of terror against home and family. There is no other term for it. An excerpt of a letter written from prison by Alan Yurko conveys the potential of this terrorism:
". . . our four-year-old daughter was taken by the authorities to 'protect her' from me--the accused who was in a maximum security facility without bond. She was used by the police and authorities to threaten and blackmail my wife to help them fabricate evidence and testify against me. This she adamantly refused to do. She was charged as an accessory to murder, and our daughter was placed in extended custody. Here she was sexually battered and molested when her 'protectors' left her unsupervised with two boys who had a history of deviant behavior. My wife's charges were dismissed after great effort and cost, and our daughter was returned. They both fight every day to bring our family back together and have been fighting since 1997."
At 35 weeks, on September 16, 1997, labor was chemically induced due to lack of amniotic fluid. Although medical records showed Apgar scores of 8 and 9 (standard of newborn condition--10 being the highest), a video of the birth taken by the father tells a much different story: clear respiratory distress, with marked rib and sternal retractions, and bluish-grey skin color. Hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) was confirmed by arterial blood gasses. The baby was sent immediately to pediatric intensive care, put on a ventilator, and administered Survanta®, a lung surfactant (surface-active) rescue drug. Three daily chest X rays showed bilateral pulmonary infiltrates interpreted as "respiratory distress."
still presenting the symptoms of respiratory distress, including raspy
breathing and grunting, the baby was sent home on his seventh day. Parents
and grandparents continued to observe these problems, along with brief
periods of apnea (breathing cessation). On November 11, at approximately
eight weeks (43 days true post-partum age), baby Alan was given the DTaP,
Hib, OPV, and Hepatitis B vaccines despite the breathing difficulty and
length/weight factors in the 3 percentile range. Within 24 hours, low
grade fever, irritability, and diarrhea developed, all of which continued
for about ten days until the morning of November 24. The father was at
home with the baby and his 4-year old sister when the baby's breathing
stopped and did not resume. While attempting mouth-to-mouth breathing,
the father rushed to a nearby hospital where the baby was only temporarily
There were four state witnesses with a total of six appearances before the trial jury, in contrast to one appearance for the single defense witness. This witness was H. Douglas Shanklin, MD, FRSM, Professor of Pathology and of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Division of Neuropathology, University of Tennessee, Memphis. I'm told he is held in the highest professional regard by his peers. Lacking prenatal and birth records at the trial, and having only pathology slides to go on, Dr. Shanklin attributed death to "natural causes" including failure-to-thrive, bilateral pneumonia (confirmed at autopsy), and meningitis.
In a letter summarizing the case, Dr. Shanklin states that either pneumonia or meningitis might or might not have caused death, but together they almost certainly would have. Without prenatal and birth records records, Dr. Shanklin could not corroborate his interpretation of the pathology slides; and the state witnesses went unchallenged with the fact of pregnancy/birth complications, for example.
Perhaps the most significant factor working against the defense was the medical complexity of the case, which even doctors have had difficulty grasping. Thus, inequity and confusion led to conviction.
Why were there no prenatal and birth records in court? Unfortunately, no one knows the whole story. Unquestionably, some subterfuge and incompetence were involved. The defense attorneys probably did make a gesture at requesting them, but meeting delay or obstruction, did not persist. The medical examiner was compelled to admit under oath that he neither sought nor examined these records before or after autopsy. In any case, in my opinion, a lack of pertinent medical records should be, indeed, should have been, grounds for calling a mistrial.
Edward Yazbak, MD, a retired pediatrician who has been following the case, informed me that any one of the pregnancy complications would put a baby in a high-risk category. With the multiple complications noted, severe nutritional deficiencies were probable, and Dr. Shanklin reported definite retardation in kidney development. We know that vitamin C is necessary for production and maintenance of connective tissue; that spontaneous fractures and hemorrhages (from bleeding capillaries) characterize classical scurvy; and that the most common site of bleeding in scurvy is subperiosteal (under the fibrous covering of bone). In ribs, as clots from such bleeding develop and calcify, they are indistinguishable on X-ray from healing fractures. Also common in scurvy, slippages of the ribs in locations near the spine may also appear on X-rays as healing fractures. Based upon the medical literature, this is detailed in the Kalokerinos report.
More recently, Alan received a report from an Australian hematologist, Michael D. Innis, MBBS, DTM&H, FRCPath, FRCPA, Honorary Consultant Haematologist, Princess Alexandria Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. He cites a highly likely contributory cause of death as intracranial hemorrhage resulting from failure of the liver to synthesize clotting factors in adequate amounts (although the causative connection between insufficient clotting factors and hemorrhage might not be immediately apparent, Dr. Innis has expertise in this area resulting from extensive research). He also emphasizes that bone underlying subperiosteal hemorrhage would become necrotic from loss of it's blood supply, and that a healing necrosis looks identical to a healing fracture at autopsy. Because appropriate post-mortem tests were not done, precise determination of all morbidity factors and their interactions is impossible. But the Innis report alone should be sufficient for Alan's vindication.
Finally, the DTaP vaccine in question is known to have come from a from a batch which ranks number one in deaths, number one in non-recoveries, and fourth in total events reported. Such batches are called "Hot Lots." One might wonder why, if batches can be so identified, SBS suspects aren't given some benefit of the doubt. One challenge is that such identification is based upon clinical observation, which courts will not accept. This seems odd, since the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) plainly indicates, as does the 1986 Congressional Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, that vaccine injuries are a fact of life. When people try for compensation under this Act, the court disallows VAERS information, asking for objective evidence, such as laboratory tests. Another challenge is, of course, that the requisite tests are nonexistent (see Addendum).
Alan Yurko could have plea bargained and received a lesser sentence. His refusal spoke to me of a man secure in his innocence. Also remarkable was the immediate and continuing loyalty, under soul-testing circumstances, of his wife, Francine. Following the trial, her diligent efforts secured complete medical records. Based on these records, there are, at this writing, 28 medical professionals willing to testify to Alan's innocence (and the number will grow). The disciplines represented at this writing include board-certified specialists in the fields of pathology, bone pathology, toxicology, hematology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, and forensics, with some practitioners having dual specialties including pathology. As noted, an appeal has been filed.
Importance of This Case
Finally, public confidence in America's health care system and in the medical profession in particular is already eroding. Sooner or later, it will become publicly obvious that many SBS defendants have been falsely accused and convicted through deplorable misdiagnosis pertaining to pathologies that could one day become regarded as the result of malpractice--the indiscriminate administration of childhood vaccines. Further adverse backlash is sure to ensue in the US and abroad unless this case, as a prime example, is brought to light now with plentiful and reliable support for the defense. Having also witnessed outright viciousness behind the scenes in legal proceedings (such as that, described earlier, used against Francine Yurko), I now feel that the SBS debacle is a potentially fatal malignancy in the integrity of medicine.
The Yurko case is eminently winnable. Its particulars make the likelihood of another equally propitious opportunity remote. Based upon what we can only imagine the post vaccinal suffering of that small, fragile life to exemplify, not to mention the misery visited upon his loving family, we--professionals and lay persons alike--must not relent in our insistence upon measures to prevent such tragedy. To this end, the Yurko case must be won. No other outcome is thinkable.
the panel does not include tests for vaccine reactions. As noted earlier,
no suitable post-licensing diagnostic protocol for vaccine reactions has
ever been officially established. There is no basic science in this area
worthy of the name, and this seems to be no accident, based upon my experiences
at court hearings. There are two important avenues:
As of this writing, a court date has not been set. Your help, professional, financial, or both is welcome and needed. Please explore the Yurko website for more information.
See the list of supporters of the court appeal.
The appeal document itself can be viewed here.
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