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Genetic Causes of Cerebral Palsy


It is commonly known in the medical community that cerebral palsy can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain at birth. For many reasons, cerebral palsy lawsuits have been the target of doctors’ groups and insurance companies who wish to limit their responsibility. Key among those reasons are the verdicts and settlements that result from meritorious cases—the costs to take care of children with cerebral palsy can reach the eight-figure range.

We have seen doctors and scientists publish articles that are nothing more than thinly-veiled propaganda pieces (we refer to them as “junk science”) in an effort to pollute the medical literature and to make it more difficult to bring birth injury lawsuits. That is why every new medical article and claim must be evaluated on its merits and with due regard for the proper scientific process.

A Genetic Component to Cerebral Palsy?

A new article in Nature Communications, based on a Canadian study by The Hospital for Sick Children and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, suggests that there may be a strong genetic component to cerebral palsy.

Essentially, 115 children with cerebral palsy were genetically evaluated. 10% were found to have certain DNA alterations, which could indicate that there may be some unifying causes of cerebral palsy. However, there is no one gene sequence that causes or prevents cerebral palsy—the affected areas of the genome are found in diverse places on the DNA structure.

How Will This Affect Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits in the Future?

It is unlikely that this singlearticle will change much in the short-term. Articles like this must be peer-reviewed—that means, it must be evaluated by other scientists and doctors. Publishing is the first step. Now, others will have the opportunity to examine the claims made in the article, and perform their own tests, studies, or independent evaluation of the evidence from the study.

Furthermore, the study’s authors concede that “[h]ow these genetic factors interplay with other established risk factors remains to be fully understood.” That means some children may be more predisposed to cerebral palsy following a lesser oxygen insult during labor and delivery. In time, if proven, this means that doctors may need to be even more careful than they are now, knowing that some babies are less able to protect themselves from oxygen deprivation.

Finally, the cost of evaluating a child’s genome is still high, and it is unlikely that many insurance companies will be willing to pay for a genetic evaluation in an effort to defend a cerebral palsy case. As the technology improves, however, this will not always be the case.

Contact Us

An important role for medical malpractice lawyers is to track medical literature, and to regularly communicate with experts to determine the relevance of new science. For more information about the cause of cerebral palsy, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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