Dozens of children shaken to death by parents each year

Officials fail to detect or report the abuse, National Council for the Child chairman says.

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January 18, 2007 00:36
2 minute read.
Dozens of children shaken to death by parents each year

alyn hospital 298.88. (photo credit: Courtesy photo)

The National Council for the Child estimates that some 70 Israeli infants die each year from "shaken baby syndrome," a form of child abuse in which parents or caregivers vigorously shake children who cry inconsolably. While the Health Ministry has not recorded a single case of SBS in recent years, council chairman Dr. Yitzhak Kadman says medical teams and officials "ignore" the phenomenon and wrongly list such deaths as "sudden infant death syndrome" because it is difficult to note external signs of such violence. Some 650 Israeli babies die each year before their first birthday, and dozens of these deaths apparently result from shaking, Israel Pediatric Society chairman Professor Francis Mimouni said. "It is unthinkable that the State of Israel remains in the Dark Ages in this field and prefers not to know, not to act, not to explain and not to prevent serious and unnecessary harm to and death of children," he declared. The council, which held a special meeting on the subject this week, said that in the US, SBS is well documented, with 2,000 "shaken babies" dying per year and 50,000 more suffering neurological damage. Approximately 60 percent of "shaken babies" are male, and a similar percentage are from families at or below the poverty level. SBS most commonly occurs in babies aged three to eight months, in situations where one caregiver or parent is largely responsible for the baby. Signs of damage usually appear only months after the baby has been abused, as developmental abnormalities appear. The damage is even greater in instances where the baby is not just shaken roughly, but also thrown against a hard surface, such as a wall or crib mattress. Kadman called on Mimouni to help increase awareness of SBS among pediatricians and report any suspected case of SBS. SBS most commonly occurs in babies aged three to eight months, in situations where one caregiver or parent is largely responsible for the baby. Signs of damage usually appear only months after the baby has been abused, as developmental abnormalities appear. Normal interaction with a baby, such as bouncing him or her on the knee, does not cause SBS, but anyone holding an infant should take care to support the baby's head, which is the heaviest part of its body. SBS can lead to blindness, hearing loss, seizures, developmental delays, memory and attention problems, paralysis, coma and severe mental retardation. Signs include lethargy, irritability, vomiting, poor appetite, rigidity, seizures, breathing difficulties, unequal pupil size, and inability to lift the head. But because these symptoms can be caused by various other illnesses or congenital problems, SBS isn't noticed unless doctors conduct an investigation when any of these signs seem suspicious.


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