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In a Moment: The Johan Aspelin Story

Jason Crain
Christina Cage, Jason Crain

In 2010 Kristian Aspelin was carrying his 3-month old son, Johan, when he slipped and fell. Johan’s head slammed against the tile floor. Kristian called 911 and Johan was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital. Over the next several hours doctors and nurses made careless medical errors that resulted in Johan’s right lung to collapse, a near overdose of respiratory medication and hours of a dislodged breathing tube. These errors deprived oxygen to Johan’s brain placing him in a vegetative state.

Behind closed doors, Dr. Chris Stewart reviewed Johan’s chart and was convinced that he had been violently shaken. Kristian was arrested, blamed for Johan’s injuries and accused of child abuse in the form of “Shaking Baby Syndrome". Dr. Stewart never physically examined Johan. Three days later Johan died in hospital while Kristian was in solitary confinement.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that referrals to state child protective services involved 6.6 million children and 3.2 million of those children were subject to an investigated report. What do you think when you read those statistics? Most people gravitate to the terrible abuse that those children have endured and that the abuser should be punished.  And that is certainly a natural and justified response. What else do you see buried in this statistic? In a Moment explores the Aspelin’s tragic entanglement with a corrupted system: the severity of medical errors in the U.S. Healthcare System, the faulty investigation practices of Child Protective Services and the egregious misuse of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

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