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Waney Squier

Waney SquierConsultant Paediatric Neuropathologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Interview location: John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford
Interview date: 10th October, 2007

Key themes: Alder Hey, Autopsy, Children, Dogma, Expert Witness, Motivation, Legislation and Regulation


 

Profile   |   Transcript Summary   |   Full Transcript




PROFILE

Much of adult neuropathology has to do with dementia... and strokes and things that really are on the way downhill, whereas in development every week the brain is different.Waney Squier went into pathology after finding it hard, as a young paediatrician, to distance herself sufficiently from the suffering of her young patients.  Pathology, she thought, would give her the chance to indulge her passion for teasing out how disease happens without having to confront personal tragedy head on.  Yet it hasn't always worked out that way: in the aftermath of Alder Hey, she found herself having to justify the practices of her department to  angry and upset parents.  She makes the point that the fallout from Alder Hey was just a blip in a continuing decline in autopsy rates, something she regrets: “Good, observational, descriptive pathology was the absolute bedrock to what we knew.  And we've forgotten it, moved away, and we think we know better.  Well we don't, because we're missing things with some of our new investigations.”

As a paediatric neuropathologist, Squier is specially interested in brain development, and what can go wrong with the process and why.  Recently she has become involved in the controversy surrounding shaken baby syndrome, questioning the scientific evidence for the original hypothesis.  Her challenge to received wisdom has put her at odds with some of her clinical colleagues and involved frequent appearances in court as an expert witness – an often extremely adversarial experience.  "The problem with court" she says, "is that scientific fact is lost.  The lawyers are there to win the case, and that's all they want to do."

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