Aiden Stein: Shaken Baby Dies After 12 Years On Life Support

Aiden Stein was pronounced dead on Sunday, March 20, 2016. Prior to his death, the Mansfield, Ohio, boy was in a vegetative state for nearly 12 years. According to reports, Aiden was violently shaken by his father, Matthew Stein, when he was only 4 months old. Although he survived the assault, the boy spent the rest of his life on life support.

Aiden’s mother, Arica Heimlich, told authorities Stein did not injure the child on purpose. However, doctors at a children’s hospital in Akron diagnosed Aiden with a traumatic brain injury consistent with child abuse.

According to U.S. News, Matthew Stein was 21 when he was convicted of child endangerment and felonious assault in 2005. Although he vehemently denied the accusations, claiming his infant son’s injury was a terrible accident, Matthew was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The hospital’s ethics panel, which was comprised of three doctors, suggested a guardian be appointed to oversee Aiden’s well being. Most importantly, the panel suggested Aiden should be removed from life support rather than prolong his suffering.

Although the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, Aiden Stein’s parents eventually won the heart-wrenching legal battle.

In an earlier decision, a probate court determined Aiden should be appointed a guardian who would have the power to remove his life support. However, the Ohio Supreme Court overruled the probate court’s decision, asserting that they lacked the full authority to allow a guardian to take Aiden off life support when his parents had not lost their parental rights.

Unfortunately, Aiden Stein’s story is not unique.

NY Daily News reports Candice Semidey, of Northern Virginia, pleaded guilty to child neglect and involuntary manslaughter in 2014 after accidentally suffocating her 4-month-old son. According to reports, Jahari Jones was suffocated to death after his mother wrapped him up for a nap and left him sleeping on his stomach.

Semidey confessed she placed her son face down on a chair cushion in her Woodbridge home before falling asleep. However, she did not expect him to come to any harm.

Prince William County Police Sgt. Jonathan Perok said Semidey woke to find her son unconscious and called the police.

“This particular death isn’t just about the child being placed on his stomach, but the totality of the circumstances of the condition he was placed in, those conditions caused the infant to essentially suffocate since he was unable to move.”

Semidey eventually pleaded guilty and was given a five-year suspended prison sentence.

Christopher Blake, of the education and advocacy group First Candle, described it as a “sad and complicated situation” and a devastating example of the 3,500 infants who suffer preventable deaths in America each year.

Blake said he had seen many parents charged for the accidental deaths of their children, noting there is a “fine line between child abuse and unpreventable sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it is a situation where parents are facing this tragic situation after losing their baby and then, compounding that, face charges.”

It may never be known whether Aiden Stein’s devastating injury was purposeful or a matter of neglect. However, some experts believe education is the key to preventing these kinds of tragedies. Christopher Blake explains.

“For a lot of the families that we work with, there’s no education about sleep safety, a lot of it is just sort of based on what you think is best, what parent doesn’t worry about what it means to swaddle and how to do it right? The risk is always there, from a parent’s point of view, you just have to know what the best practices are.”

Aiden Stein remained on life support 12 years after he suffered a shaking injury. Although he is finally resting in peace, the boy’s specific cause of death is unknown.

[Image via Ramona Heim/Shutterstock]