How Does Medical Malpractice Lead to Cerebral Palsy?


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Cerebral palsy is a serious health problem often resulting from not enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Its impact on the child and parents is lifelong, emotionally and financially. While some babies are born with cerebral palsy through no fault of anyone, about 10 percent of babies born with it developed it due to medical mistakes.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that impedes muscle coordination and body movement. While there are numerous factors that can result in cerebral palsy, regarding birth injuries and cases of medical malpractice, the most common reason is a deficient amount of oxygen reached the baby’s brain during labor or delivery.

Most children who have cerebral palsy were born with the condition, whether caused by malpractice or other factors, although it may not be diagnosed by doctors for the first few years of life. Cerebral palsy is considered a non-progressive condition, which means that it doesn’t get worse over time. It occurs in about three out of every thousand births in the nation.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are a number of types of neurological disorders that are considered cerebral palsy including:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy – This type accounts for about 80 percent of cases. Its symptoms include difficulty moving and stiffness resulting from tightness in groups of muscles. Those who have this kind of cerebral palsy have challenges moving from one position to another and holding onto and letting go of objects.
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy – This type of cerebral palsy, which accounts for about 10 percent of cases, is characterized by slurred speech, involuntary movements, difficulty swallowing, and reduced muscle tone.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy – About 10 percent of cases are ataxic cerebral palsy. Symptoms for this type include a distorted sense of balance, tremors, issues with depth perception, and problems coordinating muscle movements.

When Medical Malpractice Causes Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is often caused by hypoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain), asphyxia (insufficient oxygen to the body), premature delivery, or trauma during birth. All of these causes can result from medical malpractice and mistakes made during labor or childbirth.

However, just because a baby is born with cerebral palsy, it doesn’t always mean that medical mistakes have been made. There are times that doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals act with the greatest care while attending to mother and baby, and there are still negative outcomes. But when medical negligence is the cause of cerebral palsy, these are the most common mistakes:

  • failure to monitor the fetal heart rate appropriately during labor and childbirth
  • failure to identify and treat infections in the mother during her pregnancy
  • failure to identify a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • failure to schedule and perform a cesarean section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally
  • delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency
  • other negligence or mistakes in using medical instruments like forceps or vacuum during delivery

Taking Action in Cerebral Palsy Cases

Taking care of a child with cerebral palsy is costly, can take a toll on the family emotionally, and it often requires a lifetime of care. That care, which includes medical expenses, therapy, home care, rehabilitation, and more, can easily reach $1 million in a lifetime. If the condition was cause by medical malpractice, a cerebral palsy lawsuit can be filed, which holds the responsible party liable for his or her negligence, and provides compensation to the child and the family.

Filing and litigating a medical malpractice lawsuit can be complicated and time-consuming. It’s important for plaintiffs to have knowledgeable (both legally and medically) medical malpractice attorneys to act on their behalf.

If you have a child who suffers from cerebral palsy due to negligence on the part of a medical professional, or you think that might be the case, Ross Feller Casey can help you. We offer a free case evaluation to determine whether you have a lawsuit. Contact us today so we can help you with how to proceed.

All our medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency basis, so you don’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. You are only charged when there is a financial recovery in your case.

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