Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a series of conditions that impair one’s movement and motor function and may be associated with cognitive impairments as well.
Parents of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy often find themselves overwhelmed with more questions than answers. There are concerns about what the future holds and how they are going to afford a lifetime of necessary care and support for their child through adulthood.
And of course, they want to know, “How did this happen?”
At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston birth injury lawyers know that in many cases, a cerebral palsy diagnosis is the result of problems stemming from improper medical care before, during and after childbirth.
Our dedicated team of compassionate birth injury attorneys has represented many children and families who suffer lifelong consequences as a result of medical negligence by trusted health care providers. Our goal is to ensure children harmed due to the actions of a careless doctor will have access to necessary lifetime medical care and compensation.Cerebral Palsy Statistics
Cerebral palsy in actually a group of disorders in the U.S., with the Autism and Developmental Motoring Disabilities Monitoring Network estimating 1 in every 323 children born are diagnosed with the condition.
Of those, approximately 58 percent are able to walk independently. However, 7 percent had co-occurring autism spectrum disorders and 41 percent suffered co-occurring epilepsy.
There are currently nearly 765,000 people in the U.S. living with cerebral palsy, and 8,000 children are diagnosed with the condition every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report medical costs for children with cerebral palsy are 10 times higher than for children who don’t have the condition or any intellectual disability. For children with both cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, the cost of medical care was 26 times higher than for children who suffered neither condition.
To put into perspective what this means not just for the individual or the family members but for society, consider that the lifetime costs for all those born with this condition in a single year will top $11.5 billion in direct and indirect expenses.Causes of Cerebral Palsy
According to the CDC, cerebral palsy is caused by either:
- Abnormal development of the brain;
- Damage to the developing brain.
Not all cases of cerebral palsy are the result of medical malpractice. Some are the result of genetic conditions or environmental factors that were outside the control of the doctor or hospital.
Although there are several different kinds of cerebral palsy, the two broad cause-related umbrellas under which they can be placed are:
In congenital cerebral palsy, damage to the brain occurred before or during birth. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of all cases of cerebral palsy are congenital. A lot of times, the specific cause isn’t known, but it can be the result of some birth-related trauma.
Acquired cerebral palsy occurs as a result of brain damage more than 28 days after birth, either by infection or injury.
Most cases involved in medical malpractice claims are congenital cerebral palsy, because actions of health care providers contributed to the child’s condition before or during birth. This is also sometimes referred to as “perinatal brain cell death.”
There may be cases where acquired cerebral palsy could be the result of medical malpractice. For example, if infection resulting in cerebral palsy was either caused by a health care error or doctors failed to detect it, this could be grounds for litigation.
In cases of congenital cerebral palsy, the question will be whether the condition was genetic or whether some failure on the part of health care providers during pregnancy or the birthing process caused or contributed to the condition.
Where a physician or health care provider has failed in the duty to provide the accepted level of care, some of the issues underscored include:
- Failure to detect or treat maternal infections, such as meningitis, during pregnancy;
- Failure to plan and schedule a cesarean section surgery when it is clear the baby is too large to safely pass through the birth canal;
- Delay in performing an emergency cesarean section;
- Failure to identify a prolapsed umbilical cord;
- Failure to monitor the child’s fetal heart rate prior to and during labor and birth;
- Failure to identify prolonged bleeding in the baby’s brain after delivery;
- Unreasonable errors in the use of instruments like forceps or vacuum during birth.
In general, there are three kinds of cerebral palsy:
Spastic cerebral palsy, which accounts for about 8 out of 10 cases, is diagnosed when children display stiffness and difficulty moving as a result of tightness in one or more groups of muscles.
Athetoid cerebral palsy happens in about 10 percent of all cases, and is identified by movement that is involuntary, speech that is slurred, trouble swallowing, low muscle town and an inability to maintain posture.
Ataxic cerebral palsy also accounts for about 10 percent of all cases, and is characterized by tremors, problems with muscle coordination, depth perception issues and distorted balance.
If you suspect your child’s cerebral palsy is the result of a health care error at birth, contact our experienced lawyers today. We can help you determine whether you have grounds to file a claim for damages.