Traumatic injury to an infant’s brain due to shaking, dropping or blows to the head is referred to as shaken baby syndrome (SBS), a type of traumatic brain injury specific to infants. This is often at the hands of a caregiver or parent and is a form of child abuse that can lead to permanent brain damage and death.
What Is SBS?
When a child is violently shaken, dropped or receives a blow to the head, it can be extremely detrimental. Infants in particular are vulnerable to these abusive acts, as their necks muscles are not fully developed. This causes their small heads to move rapidly when shaken or when any type of blow or force comes in contact with them. The brain can move violently back and forth within their skulls, causing swelling, bleeding and bruising of the brain tissue. The injuries to the brain can cause:
- Mental and physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy
Most SBS cases are due to frustration on the part of the caregiver. Crying babies are often the victims of this type of abuse, although they are only doing what comes natural to them.
Symptoms of Abused Babies
Although infants with SBS will not necessary have outside evidence of trauma unless their head was impacted, there are symptoms that should be red flags that some type of internal injury has occurred. A baby may have SBS if:
- Unequal pupil size or trouble focusing
- Difficulty breathing, lifting head, eating, sucking, or smiling
Treatment for Babies With Brain Injuries
What treatment the baby will need depends on the severity of damage. Physicians will watch for brain swelling and difficulties breathing. The infant may need surgery to relieve pressure on the brain. If the child lives, it may be a case of waiting to see what the long term affects may be. The child may have life-long disabilities from the abuse that are apparent or the side effects may be less pronounced such as learning disabilities or emotional problems.
The best possible scenario in a case of SBS is that it is identified before permanent damage happens. If a parent suspects a care provider such as a daycare or nanny of this type of abuse, they need to remove the child immediately and bring them in for medical observation. This is also true for caregivers who suspect parents of abuse. Also, medical professionals have an obligation to report any suspected abuse to authorities if there are signs that an infant has been a victim of SBS.
Childcare providers that have committed this abuse can be subject to both civil and criminal charges. Criminal charges are aimed at proving that they intended harm, which can be more difficult. However, civil suits only need to show that they did not provide proper care instead of proving motive to harm. Civil lawsuits can ensure that these professional child abusers do not harm another child, regardless of their “intentions”.Legal Claims Against Caregivers for SBS
Traumatically induced brain injuries in infants and children may result in a lifetime of medical and care-related needs. When the trauma is related to a caregiver at a facility, a legal claim for damages may be pursued to recover these damages– for both the child’s immediate and future needs. Similarly, when a medical facility examines a child with obvious signs of abuse and fails to take any intervention, the law allows the child’s parents or guardian to pursue the institution for their negligence.