The term cerebral palsy refers to a variety of neurological disorders involving coordination and muscle function. The condition typically appears in infancy, although it is sometimes not detected until the diagnosed child is three or four years old. Most children with cerebral palsy are born with the condition, and while it typically does not worsen over time, it can leave sufferers struggling with mobility for the entirety of their childhood and much of their adult lives.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The vast majority of cerebral palsy cases can be classified as spastic. This type of cerebral palsy is marked by mobility issues arising from tightness of one or more major muscle groups. Those with spastic cerebral palsy may struggle to grasp objects or to move from one position to another.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy typically involves difficulty with coordination, depth perception, and balance. Sufferers may also experience frequent tremors. The least common type of cerebral palsy, this variation affects between 5 and 10 percent of those diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
Sometimes referred to as dyskinetic cerebral palsy, athetoid cerebral palsy is associated with multiple muscle tone issues, including hypertonia and hypotonia. Those with athetoid cerebral palsy may struggle to maintain posture, either due to involuntary movements such as chorea or as a result of poor muscle tone.
Medical Malpractice and Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is typically caused by a lack of oxygen, either to the brain (also known as hypoxia) or the body (asphyxia). The condition commonly accompanies premature delivery or poorly-timed cesarean sections. However, cerebral palsy does not always arise due to medical malpractice; often, despite healthcare providers’ best efforts, things go wrong in the womb and during delivery. That being said, improper prenatal care or delivery practices can greatly enhance the likelihood of cerebral palsy. The following common causes can be attributed to medical malpractice:
- A lack of fetal heart rate monitoring immediately prior to or during labor
- Failure to plan a cesarean section if a baby is deemed too large to pass safely through the birth canal
- Improper cesarean section scheduling or delays in performing the cesarean section
- Negligence in utilizing forceps and other equipment during delivery
- Failure to diagnose viral encephalitis or meningitis
In rare cases, cerebral palsy results from head injuries sustained during car accidents or falls. A few reported cerebral palsy cases have been attributed to child abuse.
Cerebral Palsy and Determining Liability
Medical malpractice lawsuits involving cerebral palsy are increasingly common, but it can be very difficult for parents of affected children to determine who is responsible for the condition. Many factors can contribute to cerebral palsy, and not all involve negligence on the part of medical professionals. Often, cerebral palsy is present long before the child is born. The sheer number of factors contributing to cerebral palsy can make it challenging for the parents of sufferers to secure remuneration, but certain forms of evidence may make the process of proving fault a bit easier:
Medical records can determine whether mothers and their children enjoyed an acceptable standard of care during pregnancy, labor, and in the immediate aftermath of the delivery. In some cases, medical records are used to prove that healthcare providers did not plan or execute cesarean sections in a timely manner after it became evident that traditional birth was not a safe option.
Although insufficient when used alone as evidence, witness testimonies can be used to back up malpractice allegations already supported by problematic medical records. Anybody present in the delivery room at the time of birth can provide witness testimony. Common witnesses in cerebral palsy malpractice cases include family members, nurses, and other medical professionals.
Testimony from Expert Witnesses
Experts with a thorough understanding of obstetrics and neonatal medicine can be called upon to provide valuable insight into whether a particular medical professional abided by the required standards of care. If a healthcare provider is believed to have failed to uphold his or her duties as a medical professional, an expert witness can also determine whether that failure was responsible for the child’s cerebral palsy, or whether other factors may be to blame.
If you believe that your child’s cerebral palsy resulted from medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. We have a successful track record handling a variety of medical malpractice matters. Call our firm today to learn more about cerebral palsy and medical malpractice.