Monday, 8 August, 2022
HomeMedico-LegalPretoria paediatrician had ‘never seen so many broken bones’ in an infant

Pretoria paediatrician had ‘never seen so many broken bones’ in an infant

Pretoria paediatrician Dr Julian Smith told the Gauteng High Court  that the amount of force used in causing the fractures on the body of  alleged abuse victim Baby T must have been “very high”.

The parents of an infant whose numerous injuries and fractures led to the doctor contacting the police have denied abusing their baby. Smith took the stand in the last week in the case of attempted murder and child neglect against Baby T’s parents, .

According to the Pretoria News, the doctor treated Baby T when she was admitted to hospital for the last time, aged five months, with at least 18 fractures across her body. The mother (22) and father (24) pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Smith told Judge Hennie de Vos that when she saw the baby in hospital in July last year, she feared the worst. She said that in her nearly two decades as a doctor, she had never seen so many broken bones in such a small infant. She said babies had flexible bones and extreme force must have been used to break them.

The baby was thin, dehydrated, blue in the face and could not breathe. Her body was in shock. When Smith saw the fractures on the X-rays and MRI scan taken of the baby, her concerns grew.

Smith said she was so concerned that someone would be wrongly blamed for the baby’s condition that she did an array of tests to determine whether the infant had a medical disorder that caused her bones to break.“I'm afraid I could find none,” she told the court.

According to the Pretoria News, Baby T, who was born on 1 February last year, was first admitted to hospital with unexplained injuries when she was two months old. She was readmitted three months later.

Smith said many of the fractures could have been life threatening if the baby’s organs had been punctured. As the doctor could find no medical reason for the state the infant was in when she was brought to hospital, she reported the matter to the police. The matter is proceeding.

Asked what could have caused some of the fractures, she said the baby may have been swung with force from one side to the other. The injuries to the neck she described as “whiplash”, also from forcefully swinging the baby.


Full Pretoria News story on IOL– Doctor says she feared the worst for ‘abused’ Baby T (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Baby killing in South Africa – uncovering the unthinkable


Clinical guide to diagnosing, in children, bruising caused by abuse


Children's fingertip injuries could signal abuse


Early abuse raises risk of later health problems


Alarming findings from SA child death forensic review


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