Canadian Children's Rights Council
Conseil canadien des droits des enfants

Shaken Baby Syndrome - Canada

Shaken Baby Syndrome - Statistical Overview

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) / Agence de santé public du Canada (ASPC)

Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2004

Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics

Page 49

"From the Box 4.4: Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a serious medical diagnosis comprising of a range of signs and symptoms resulting from the violent shaking of an infant or young child, with or without impact to the head. Signs and symptoms may include such conditions as lethargy, seizures, bruising, vomiting, unresponsiveness and death.1 Often, there can be no external evidence of injury or trauma.

According to a study conducted under the auspices of the Canadian Shaken Baby Work Group, there were 364 reported cases of SBS between 1988 to 1998 in 85% of tertiary care pediatric beds in Canada.2 Over half of the victims were boys (56%) and had a median age of 4.6 months. Death of the child occurred in approximately one in five children (19%) as a result of being shaken. Mild to serious neurological and developmental consequences affected a further 59% of shaken babies. Based on these data, the authors conclude that there are no less than 40 cases of SBS each year in Canada, leading to the death of 8 infants and young children. However, this may be an under-estimation, as researchers have suggested that some cases of SBS may be misdiagnosed and underreported.3

A Canadian Joint Statement on Shaken Baby Syndrome released by such signatories as Health Canada, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Canadian Bar Association recently made numerous recommendations to address SBS.4 These recommendations fall within seven main areas: improved data collection and surveillance; research into the psychosocial aspects of the problem; prevention efforts; care and treatment of survivors; education for child welfare and justice system workers; multi-disciplinary supports and services at the community level; and professional training.

  1. King, J., M. MacKay, and A. Sirnick. 2003. Shaken Baby Syndrome in Canada: Clinical Characteristics and Outcomes of Hospital Cases Canadian Medical Association Journal. vol. 168, no. 2: 155-159.
  2. See note 1.
  3. Health Canada. 2001. Joint Statement on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
  4. See note 3."

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Toronto Star logo

Canada's largest daily newspaper

Baby death review 'daunting'

New views on shaken-baby syndrome could change findings in 220 cases dating as far back as 20 years

The Toronto Star, by Theresa Boyle, STAFF REPORTER, October 7, 2008

Ontario's chief forensic pathologist, who was the first to suggest a review of old "shaken-baby" deaths, says the province has a "daunting" task ahead as it looks at 220 cases to determine if anyone was wrongfully convicted.

The review will be a massive undertaking, not just because of the number of cases dating back as far as 20 years, but also because shaken-baby syndrome is being hotly debated in medical and scientific circles, Dr. Michael Pollanen says.

"It's a daunting task. It's a considerable amount of work. Resources will need to be dedicated to it," he says, noting the review will involve poring over almost five times as many cases as were examined in the lead-up to a public inquiry that probed the mistakes of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith. Read More ..