VITAMIN supplements in baby milk led to an innocent couple being condemned for battering their month-old baby, a top family judge has heard.
An extraordinary sequence of medical events led to a case of congenital rickets being viewed as horrific child abuse by social workers, experts and a judge, and the baby boy being taken from his distraught family and put up for adoption.
Now, however, the parents have been given a final chance to get back their little boy - now aged almost three - from the care system.
This comes after lawyers had a “light bulb moment” and understood the full significance of the youngster’s medical records.
Michael Shrimpton, for the family, who come from the Sheffield area, told London’s Appeal Court that there is evidence that the boy was born with a Vitamin D deficiency, inherited from his mother, and that this led to “soft bones” and rickets.
Although blood tests carried out on the baby boy when he was four weeks old were normal, the barrister said his congenital condition would by then have been “masked” by the formula milk given to him by his mother, which contained Vitamin D supplements.
Mr Shrimpton argued that rickets was the true explanation for multiple broken bones suffered by the baby, which could have been caused during his difficult forceps birth or even in-utero while his mother was still pregnant.
The barrister pointed to “striking” medical records which showed severe abnormalities in the functioning of the baby boy’s liver, an organ which is instrumental in the processing of Vitamin D.
Now, with the boy on the verge of being adopted, Lord Justice McFarlane has intervened in the case, directing that the evidence be reviewed by a fresh medical expert.
Mr Shrimpton said that one of the country’s top endocrinologists, Professor Stephen Nussey, who has carried out pioneering work on the causes and effects of Vitamin D deficiency, will be instructed to carry out that task if he is available to do so at short notice.
Observing that medical knowledge on the causes of infant injuries is in a state of contant movement, the barrister added: “This is an important case.
“It is starting to take on the appearance of a leading test case.”
After hearing expert evidence in June last year, a judge at Sheffield High Court ruled that one or other of the parents must have been responsible for the baby’s catalogue of injuries.
The same judge refused to change her mind earlier this year and went on to free the boy for adoption.
However, Lord Justice McFarlane observed: “Medical knowledge of how some children may have bones that are more susceptible to injury than normal children has moved on”.
He added that there was no evidence of emotional difficulties, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, or any other signs of dysfunction within the family, which could indicate a risk of child abuse.
Emphasising the extreme urgency of the case, in light of plans for the boy’s imminent adoption, the judge gave the parents 28 days to obtain a report from Professor Nussey, or another expert, in support of their case.
Recognising the parents’ “exceptionally awful” experience in having their child taken from them, the judge said that the court would carefully examine whether the Vitamin D deficiency explanation for the boy’s injuries was “more than an intellectual possibility”.
The local authority involved in the case had informed the Appeal Court that suitable adoptive parents have already been found for the two-year-old boy, but no further steps in the process would be taken prior to the court ruling on the case.
The case is set to return to the Appeal Court once the expert medical report has been obtained.
In December last year, figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post revealed a sharp increase in the number of cases of rickets across the region.