Words matter. Two ways to say something may seem equivalent but, in fact, a message is being delivered.

According to the literature, bleeding disorders can “mimic” child abuse. A baby with a bleeding disorder could have unusual bruises from normal handling that are indistinguishable from bruises caused by abuse. But why don’t bleeding disorders “have similar symptoms” as child abuse or why doesn’t child abuse “mimic” bleeding disorders?

My experience of being falsely accused of abusing my child showed me a system that assumed guilt that must be disproved. In the first reading of our son’s MRI the report said likely child abuse. From there we were doomed. Since our son’s disorder wasn’t detected in the blood tests, diagnosis: abuse.

The language of abuse “mimics” assumes abuse is the starting point. If there are only medical symptoms pointing to abuse and no other reason to suspect the caregivers, doctors should start with an open mind. Even if there is a good reason to suspect the caregivers, abused babies may also have an underlying disease.