Shaking babies to death, a sad reality

Garry Hertzberg.

THERE are very few things in life as frustrating as a crying, screaming baby. Many parents, especially those who are young and inexperienced, are left in a state of shock and absolute stress when faced with a crying bundle.

Although shaking a child and damaging its little body is unacceptable; shaken baby syndrome has become abnormally common in South Africa.

Michael, a harmless little baby, was not only shaken but beaten. He died a miserable, long and painful death after his parents battered him to the point where he was blind, paralysed and brain damaged. This little baby became a victim of shaken baby syndrome in the most gruesome way possible.

Baby Michael was almost saved by a man who can only be described as an angel on earth. This brave man forced his way into baby Michael’s home after hearing him cry for hours on end, in an attempt to save the child. When he found the baby with external bleeding and black and blue eyes, he could not believe that parents could be so heartless. He took the child to hospital – but it was too late as the permanent physical damage had already been done.

It is believed that shaken baby syndrome is quite common. Only now that autopsies are done on babies, have people realised that many ‘cot deaths’ are actually shaken baby syndrome. Though many parents think it is fun to throw their babies up and down, shake them on their laps or put them on a swing, it is actually quite dangerous. Babies have not developed any neck muscles and cannot support their heads.

Baby Michael’s parents were each given a 10-year sentence. That does not take away from the fact that Baby Michael could have developed into Big Michael. Perhaps he could have been a successful businessman, a teacher or even a doctor saving lives. We will never know what difference his life could have made in this world. This is because his parents deprived him of one of his most important rights: his right to life.


Garry Hertzberg

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