Opinion: Medical experts must step up if health justice is to enter the courtroom

Danyel Smith has served 21 years of a life sentence at Dooly Correctional Facility in Unadilla, Georgia, for the 2003 murder of his two-month-old son, Chandler. The sole evidence against him at trial was the testimony of three physicians who said that child abuse — in this case shaken baby syndrome — was the only explanation for his son’s symptoms. That testimony went unchallenged; no physician testified on Smith’s behalf.

Nearly two decades after Smith’s conviction, Dr. Saadi Ghatan, a professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and director of pediatric neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, reviewed Chandler’s neuroimaging and medical records in 2021 on behalf of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a legal nonprofit that represents Smith. Ghatan identified that Chandler’s death was the result of hypoxic-ischemic brain damage from respiratory arrest by a natural disease process, likely the result of…
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