Ramifications from a cerebral palsy diagnosis affect a child and parents for a lifetime. Intensive therapy eats up finances, and a child transitioning into adulthood may never become independent.
Although the condition is one of the more common birth disorders (four out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. and Europe are diagnosed with it), it encompasses multiple neurological disorders that greatly reduce body movements, coordination, and motor skills and may further include visual disturbances and intellectual disabilities.
Even when physicians and medical staff act with care in prenatal treatment and childbirth, a child may still be diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as the condition is believed to result from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Diagnosis often occurs between the time a child is 3 to 9 months old, although milder cases may surface during preschool years.
Not all medical professionals act with care, however. With the mother’s and infant’s health compromised at points before or during birth, from a delayed cesarean section to improper heartbeat monitoring, doctors and hospital staff may have acted irresponsibly. As the child’s condition may be attributed to medical malpractice, a lawsuit may recoup pain and suffering and the cost of treatment required over a lifetime.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive health condition that has no cure, although therapy proves to have positive effects. The condition may stem from the following types of brain damage:
Periventricular Leukomalacia — Damage to white matter brain tissue. Most infants with cerebral palsy also have this condition.
Cerebral Dysgenesis — Abnormal brain development that does not result from a brain injury.
Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy — Asphyxia to the brain.
Intracranial Hemorrhage — A hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain causes a hematoma to form, which damages brain tissue.
In terms of cerebral palsy related to childbirth, the condition may result from a lack of oxygen to the body (asphyxia) or brain (hypoxia), premature delivery, birth trauma, low birth weight (under 3.3 pounds), a child born feet first, or multiple births.
Cerebral palsy takes one of four forms:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy — 80 percent of cerebral palsy cases involve stiffness or difficulty moving, often as a result of tightening in one or more muscle groups.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy — Including 10 percent of all cases, this condition is characterized by involuntary movement, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and maintaining posture, and low muscle tone.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy — Another 10 percent of all cases are characterized by depth perception, uneven balance, tremors, and trouble with muscle coordination.
Mixed Cerebral Palsy — The most common form involves a combination of spastic and athetoid characteristics.
Symptoms start to emerge as vascular and respiratory issues in infancy, or detection may come sooner with seizures as a newborn or a low Apgar score (a numerical figure for heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color minutes after birth). Keep in mind that not every baby with a low Apgar score has cerebral palsy.
It has been estimated that the cost for parents raising a child with cerebral palsy is $921,000.
Birth Injury or Medical Malpractice
Although a medical malpractice case involves proving hospital staff did not act in accordance with common practices, a lack of care may result from the following instances:
- Infections during pregnancy, like meningitis, were never detected and treated.
- Fetal heartbeat was not properly monitored for distress in labor and childbirth.
- The physician did not detect a prolapsed umbilical cord.
- A cesarean section was never planned and scheduled, or was delayed.
- Misuse of equipment and instruments like a vacuum or forceps.
- The doctor was late to the delivery room.
- Hospital staff failed to identify when the mother’s water broke.
- Insufficient prenatal care recommendations.
- Excessive force used during delivery.
- The doctor does not detect when the baby is stuck.
- Head trauma during delivery.
- Prescribing Paxil or Accutane to the mother during pregnancy.
Filing a Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit may assist parents with the lifelong costs of medical bills, therapy, and other needs for a person with cerebral palsy. However, statute of limitations varies by state. As well, parents may sue for compensation on behalf of the child until his or her 18th birthday; a child may sue after turning 18. Compensation may include general and specific damages, such as the metal and physical costs of suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
If you plan to file a medical malpractice claim, the period of gathering evidence may involve a lawyer consulting with obstetricians and neurologists regarding medical records. Files concerning prenatal care, labor and delivery, and post-birth care may be monitored. As well, strips used during delivery may be analyzed for fetal distress during childbirth.
If a child has been suffering from cerebral palsy as a result of birth complications or possible medical malpractice, have the lawyers of Trantolo & Trantolo examine your claim.