• Recent judicial decisions have suggested doctors are divided on Shaken Baby Syndrome as a definite cause of head trauma, coma or death
  • But a new study has found 90% of doctors believe it is a cause of death 

Mia De Graaf For Dailymail.com



The majority of doctors believe Shaken Baby Syndrome is a genuine diagnosis that can kill a child, new survey data reveals. 

It delivers a decisive blow to courts around the world, many of which still question the concept.

Recent judicial decisions have stated that doctors are divided on the idea that shaken baby syndrome is directly linked to abusive head trauma.

But according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, 90 per cent of physicians agree that shaking a young child is capable of producing subdural hematoma (a life-threatening pooling of blood outside the brain), severe retinal hemorrhage, coma or death. 

Recent judicial decisions said doctors are divided on the idea that shaken baby syndrome is directly linked to abusive head trauma. But a new study has found 90 per cent of doctors agree it is a real cause of death

General acceptance of concepts in the medical community is a critical factor for admitting medical expert testimony in courts. 

In cases of child maltreatment, courts often rely on medical expert testimony to establish the most likely cause of a child’s injuries.

‘Claims of substantial controversy within the medical community about shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma have created a chilling effect on child protection hearings and criminal prosecutions,’ says lead author Sandeep Narang, Division Head of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

‘Our study is the first to provide the much needed empiric confirmation that multidisciplinary physicians throughout the country overwhelmingly accept the validity of these diagnoses, and refutes the recent contention that there is this emerging “groundswell” of physician opinion against the diagnoses.’

The study examined survey responses from 628 physicians frequently involved in evaluation of injured children at 10 leading children’s hospitals in the US. 

The represented specialties included emergency medicine, critical care, child abuse pediatrics, pediatric ophthalmology, pediatric radiology, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric neurology and forensic pathology. 

Eighty-eight per cent of respondents stated that shaken baby syndrome is a valid diagnosis, while 93 per cent affirmed the diagnosis of abusive head trauma.

Ninety per cent reported that Shaken Baby Syndrome highly likely to lead to severe retinal hemorrhage

More than 80 per cent of physicians responded that shaking with or without impact was likely or highly likely to produce subdural hematoma in a child under three years old.

Ninety per cent reported that it was likely or highly likely to lead to severe retinal hemorrhage.

And 78 per cent felt that it was likely or highly likely to result in a coma or death.  

Very few physicians selected a short fall as an explanation for each clinical finding.

Only a high velocity motor vehicle collision was thought to result in the same clinical findings by a large majority of respondents.

‘Our data show that shaking a young child is generally accepted by physicians to be a dangerous form of abuse,’ says Narang.


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