Assemblymember Cahill: Legislation Would Help Parents Learn About the Dangers of Shaking Infants

July 15, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced Assembly passage of legislation, which he supported, requiring hospitals and birth centers to request that maternity patients and fathers view a video presentation on the dangers of shaking infants (A.10889). "This measure follows legislation I introduced that was signed into law last year (Chapter 552 of 2003), mandating all child care providers and care givers be educated on the identification, diagnosis, and prevention of shaken baby syndrome," said Assemblymember Cahill. The bill passed the Senate and currently awaits the Governorís signature.

This legislation would educate soon-to-be parents on the dangers of shaking a baby. "The Assembly continues to be the leader when it comes to ensuring families and caregivers of newborn babies are aware of the injuries that can arise from shaking a baby," said Mr. Cahill. "I am extremely excited to see the door continue to open to better education and prevention efforts as a result of legislation such as this."

Shaken Baby Syndrome is the aftermath of an infant caregiver losing control and shaking a baby, usually under the age of one. This often inadvertent and impulsive act can cause brain damage and may result in death. The leading cause of death of abused children is head trauma. "Of the infants that survive, more than half suffer from severe injuries and impairments such as blindness, paralysis and mental retardation," the Assemblymember said. "This is a totally preventable form of child abuse and I strongly urge the Governor to sign this bill into law," he added.

Currently, hospitals and birth centers must present prospective parents with an information leaflet on shaking infants. "In 2001, I supported this educational tool because it was and continues to be a good policy that raises awareness around the severity of this act," (Chapter 121 of 2001) said Mr. Cahill. The bill recently passed by the Assembly would add to statewide prevention efforts by requiring health care centers to ask prospective parents to watch a video and have them sign a form saying they either watched it or refused. The forms would then be delivered to the State Department of Health.

The legislation would also:

  • require that the baby shaking videos be approved by the State Health Commissioner;
  • mandate that the Commissioner distribute appropriate training materials and forms to the hospitals and birth centers; and
  • require that the percentage of parents who watch the video be included in the information leaflet distributed to maternity patients.

"Many people donít realize that when they take their frustrations out on a baby by shaking him or her, serious consequences could ensue," Assemblymember Cahill said. "By presenting information in a non-threatening way, itís more likely that infant caregivers will stop and think about what theyíre doing and baby shaking cases will decrease. An informational video is an effective way to get the message across that one moment of frustration and anger can result in death or severe disability for the child you love," he concluded.