Who Killed Baby Yurko: His Father or His Doctors?

Adapted from Alan R. Gaby, MD and Harold Buttram, MD

In 1999, a Florida court convicted Alan R. Yurko of killing his two-and-a-half month old baby, by vigorously shaking his head, resulting in subdural bleeding. He was sentenced to life-plus-ten-years in prison. Mr. Yurko refused to plead guilty to a lesser charge and steadfastly maintained that he had not shaken his baby.

Medical examiners also noted retinal hemorrhages and healing bone fractures, which were said to provide additional evidence that Mr. Yurko had mistreated his son. However the conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence, as no one had ever observed Mr. Yurko actually shaking his baby.

Following the conviction, the Yurko family asked a number of doctors and scientists to review the medical records, to determine whether something other than child abuse could have caused their baby’s death. Some of these experts found at least a reasonable doubt as to whether the baby had ever been shaken.

In the October, 2003, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients Harold E. Buttram, MD, reviews the question of whether, in some instances in which a parent or caretaker has been accused of causing the death of an child from Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), the true cause of death was a catastrophic vaccine reaction. Inspired by the Yurko case and entitled "Shaken Baby Syndrome or Vaccine-Induced Encephalitis?", the article includes over 100 references to scientific publications discussing post-vaccine medical diagnoses. Buttram shows that the theories on which the SBS is based are both undocumented and flawed and that convictions of SBS in many cases may have been the result of misdiagnosis, the true cause of death or injury having been vaccine-related.

Two weeks prior to his death, Baby Yurko had been given six vaccinations. His history shares this and other suggestive features with at least 25 other cases involving accusations and convictions of SDS:

In the aftermath of tragedies like the death of Baby Yurko, Dr. Buttram sees the possible emergence of a "newly recognized syndrome involving the effects of vaccines in mimicking the SBS, or what is thought to represent SBS."

While no one will ever know for sure what caused Baby Yurko’s death, it seems that the jury convicting his father did not have access to all of the relevant evidence. Conventional medicine claims that many of the alleged dangers of vaccinations are unproven. However, with a man on trial for murder, the prosecution should have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the medical procedures to which baby Yurko was subjected were safe. A judicial system that acquitted O.J. Simpson would be hypocritical not to set Alan Yurko free or to grant him a new trial.

The larger question this case raises is how many parents have been wrongly convicted for shaken- baby syndrome (SBS) when the real cause of their child’s injury or death was vaccines or other iatrogenic injuries. Such questions cannot be allowed to fester as skeletons in the closets of our society.

The adequacy of our vaccine safety testing and reaction reporting is also thrown into question, justifying the growing outcry of parents who believe their children have been seriously harmed. It is difficult to answer their questions because there has been little more than token investigation of potentially serious adverse effects from vaccines. From their earliest years of training, doctors have been taught to look upon vaccines as one of the greatest achievements of medical science, and any question about them is often looked upon as disloyalty to the profession. Yet we cannot resolve this issue without thorough investigations, so far unavailable.

The public and private cost of such negligence is enormous. Many childhood disorders may be poorly understood, misdiagnosed and wrongly attributed to causes other than vaccines. Nowhere is this more dramatic than in the increasing numbers of SBS cases appearing in court. In the name of justice for those now imprisoned for the SBS and those who will be accused in the future, let us hope that this area receives the investigation that it deserves.

[This article has been adapted from an editorial by Alan R. Gaby, MD, DDR Professional Advisory Board member, in the May 2003 Townsend Letter for Doctors Patients and the October 2003 article by Harold Buttram, MD, in the same journal.]

Update (a year after this article, we wrote this in our News and Comments): After serving six years and 125 days of a life sentence for shaking his baby son to death in 1999, Alan Yurko walked out of prison a free man. New evidence convinced the judge that the medical examiner had botched the baby’s autopsy. Yurko admitted contributing to his son’s death, not by shaking him, but by allowing his baby to receive a series of many vaccines when ill. This case, however tragic, serves as a dramatic example of what a massive public effort can do. Maybe it saved the lives of other children whose parents now know the possible risks of vaccinating a sick child.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 9, Number 1 - Fall, 2003]

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