From the July 2004 Idaho Observer:

Shaken Baby Syndrome -- A growing epidemic filled with controversy

by Ingri Cassel

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest; but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”~John F. Kennedy

SBS: Child abuse or medical misdiagnosis?

A growing number of medical doctors and scientists are questioning the validity of an initial diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) due to the fact that many emerging diseases and neurological disorders can mimic the signs and symptoms listed in the accepted definition of SBS (See definition below).

Hospital emergency room personnel, EMTs and medical examiners are trained to interpret all subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages as symptomatic of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Once this initial diagnosis of SBS is made, the “witch hunt” for the perpetrator begins.

In an unpublished series of 25 cases in the year 2000 involving accusations or convictions of inflicted trauma in the form of “shaken/impact baby syndrome,” largely collected by attorney and jury counselor Toni Blake of San Diego, California (, the cases had the following features in common: 1) All occurred in fragile infants born from complicated pregnancies; problems included prematurity, low birth weights, drug/alcohol problems, maternal toxemia, diabetic mothers, or other maternal complications; 2) all infants were 6 months of age or less; 3) onset of signs and symptoms occurred at about 2, 4, or 6 months of age, and within 12 days of the administration of vaccines; 4) all infants had subdural hematomas; and 5) some infants had multiple fractures.

Disturbing diagnoses

What is most disturbing about an initial diagnosis of SBS is the fact that doctors rarely examine the child's medical history for a possible underlying pathology that can mimic the symptoms of SBS and exonerate the parents or caregiver of wrongdoing. Some of the medical conditions that can also cause retinal hemorrhaging, subdural hematomas, and brittle bones are:

Metabolic disorders, such as Reye's syndrome

Hematologic Disorders -- Hemophilia, Coalgulopathy and bleeding disorders

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura

Von Willebrand's disease

Henoch-Schönlein purpura

Dermatologic Disorders


Vascular malformations

Subcutaneous fat necrosis

Bullous impetigo

Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome

Petechia or purpura from systemic bacterial or viral infections

Congenital disorders

Osteogenesis imperfecta

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome


Insensitivity to pain disorders

Stress fracture 

Terson's Syndrome

Glutaric Acidemia (GA1)

Osteogenis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease)

Sudden cardiac arrythmia

Sudden respiratory distress


Rebleed of an old subdural


hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH)

DTP vaccination

Allagille syndrome

Hemorhagic Disease of the Newborn

Toxic Causes (medications, aspartame and vaccinations)

Seizure Disorder

Other natural or accidental causes (e.g. a fall)

Unfortunately, when your baby is clearly sick enough to require a visit to the local hospital emergency room, doctors are not trained to diagnose any of the above alternative explanations for retinal hemorrhaging or subdural hematomas.

Differential diagnoses

According to Dr. Michael Innis, retinal and subdural hemorrhaging consistently occurs within 21 days after vaccination and is, in fact a CAUSE of these hemorrhages doctors are now seeing on a regular basis in babies.

Due to the incredible increase in the number of vaccines now recommended for children by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents are becoming alarmed and certainly should be, especially in light of the fact that the DPT vaccine has been used in laboratory mice to stimulate encephalitis or swelling/inflammation in the brain.

When attempting to get clear national statistics on the incidence of shaken baby syndrome, a call to Amy Wicks of the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome revealed that there is no central clearinghouse for states to report SBS diagnoses. She told me that, from her research based on reports from several major hospitals and a couple of states, the rate of SBS is 1,200 to 1,400 cases annually in the U.S. alone.

Wicks also revealed that coroners do not check for neck or spinal injuries when citing the cause of death as SBS.

It is estimated by doctors promoting the SBS hypothesis that babies are typically shaken back and forth approximately 40 to 50 times to incur the classic SBS symptoms of subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages. Since a whiplash in a car accident certainly produces subluxations (partial dislocations) in the neck, one would think this would be part of the diagnostic criteria for SBS.

Idaho Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shelly Armstrong revealed in a phone conversation that she not only did not know what a subluxation was but that spinal and neck injuries are not part of the criteria needed to diagnose classic SBS.

Armstrong has prosecuted several SBS cases in Idaho and had agreed to be interviewed by The Idaho Observer after she phoned our office complaining about not being contacted for an opinion article I wrote for the March 2004 “Back to Basics” column. We agreed by phone to do an interview via email since it would give her an advantage of thinking clearly about her responses. When she received the interview questions, she refused to answer them and instead opted to write a letter to the editor. Two weeks later she sent us her letter via U.S. postal service. (The Idaho Observer, June, 2004). Armstrong's letter did not address even one of our questions.


What is clearly absent from the ominous diagnosis of SBS is the science of biomechanics -- the study of how injury to human tissue occurs.

According to Attorney Elaine Sharp in her article “A Matter of Gravity” (The Warrior, Winter, 2004), there is not a medical school in the country that requires its students to learn the basics of biomechanics. She states that, “Despite this void in training, pediatricians and forensic pathologists frequently testify as experts about the degree of force necessary to cause injury.”

As of this writing, SBS is the hot topic of the day on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Internet forum with heated arguments on both sides of the debate being posted. []

The fallacies inherent in an SBS diagnosis based solely on subdural hematomas, retinal hemorrhages and bone fractures without looking at the entire medical picture has become a cause for alarm among medical doctors worldwide. Many sickly infants are born each year and are fragile enough due to extreme maternal malnutrition to cause skeletal deformities while hairline fractures often occur by simply picking up one of these infants.

Rather than correct the underlying problem of nutrient deficiencies, doctors quickly assume that a parent or caregiver has caused the bone injuries in the child. In fact, the problem of false charges is so endemic that one notable forensic pathologist, Cyril Wecht, coroner for Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, says the syndrome is so over-diagnosed he wouldn't allow his kids to baby-sit other children because “accidents happen, and these kinds of cases tend to take on a life...”

Babysitting has become a dangerous profession because the alleged perpetrator of SBS is usually alone and no witnesses can testify as to the innocence of the accused.

The aspartame connection

Another aspect of the SBS diagnosis that is often overlooked is the widespread use of aspartame and infant formulas. According to a citation on from the book, “Clinical Management of Poisoning” by L. Hadden et. al (1983), aspartame consumption is “principally responsible for the optic papillitis and retinal edema always associated with the toxic syndrome in humans.”

Infant formulas are devoid of the essential fatty acids and enzymes essential for proper brain and nervous system development.

What is probably the most frightening aspect of a potential SBS diagnosis is the increase in infant and children's medications and food products containing aspartame. How many parents would check the label for aspartame on an antibiotic prescribed for their infant or toddler? How many parents realize that Flintstone vitamins, Kool aid, flavored infant Pedialyte, candies and chewing gum contain aspartame? If you think aspartame is safe because the FDA approved it, think again and get a copy of The Artificially Sweetened Times (published by The Idaho Observer). You owe it to yourself, your family and your community to become educated on this subject.

Since Shaken Baby Syndrome has been reported in nearly every county in America, it is high time we do some independent research into these cases and warn potential victims of this growing epidemic.


The working definition of SBS

According to the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome, “SBS” is a term used to describe the constellation of signs and symptoms resulting from violent shaking or shaking and impacting of the head of an infant or small child. The degree of brain damage depends on the amount and duration of the shaking and the forces involved in impact of the head.

Signs and symptoms of SBS range on a spectrum of neurological alterations from minor (irritability, lethargy, tremors, vomiting) to major (seizures, coma, stupor, death). These neurological changes are due to destruction of brain cells secondary to trauma, lack of oxygen to the brain cells, and swelling of the brain.

Extensive retinal hemorrhages in one or both eyes are found in the vast majority of these cases. The classic triad of subdural hematoma, brain swelling and retinal hemorrhages are accompanied in some, but not all cases by bruising of the part of the body used as a “handle” for shaking.

Fractures of the long bones and/or of the ribs may also be seen in some cases. In many cases, however, there is no external evidence of trauma either to the head or the body.

~Definition provided by Robert Reece, M.D. Dr. Reece is a clinical professor of Pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Institute for Professional Education at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

"Child abuse prevention is a laudable goal with which none of us would disagree. However, child abuse prevention has become an industry. The website for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, a non-governmental corporation in Salt Lake City, lists 13 professional employees.. Government and private grants totaling millions of dollars have been granted to individuals and institutions to “study” and prevent child abuse. However, the grants have done little more than to increase the number of child abuse “specialists” with dubious qualifications, and almost none has been spent to research infant injury mechanisms. ~ John Plunkett, MD et al -- as quoted in the BMJ forum under “Responsible medical testimony and the GMC”

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