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Cerebral Palsy and Medical Malpractice: What You Need to Know

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

Does someone you love have cerebral palsy? Are you unsure if it was a birth injury? Do you have a claim for medical malpractice? Here’s some essential information to answer your most pressing questions:

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term used to refer to a broad group of developmental disorders of the brain associated with partial or complete muscle paralysis and a loss of sensation, posture, or coordination. CP usually makes itself evident in early childhood and is the most common motor disability disorder in young children. CP is a non-progressive disorder, meaning the damage does not worsen throughout the person’s lifetime, but the symptoms and severity can fluctuate. This debilitating condition affects more than 750,000 Americans, and approximately 10,000 preschoolers are diagnosed with it every year. CP is often accompanied by a seizure disorder and some level of learning disability. It can also be associated with trouble swallowing, breathing problems, difficulty with bowel and bladder control, and impediments in speech, hearing, vision, and language.

Is cerebral palsy a birth injury?

In about 70% of the children with CP, the condition is congenital and present at birth, although it may not become evident until many months later. However, in about 20% of children with CP, it is the result of an injury sustained during the birthing process. This can be the result of a cesarean section not being performed on a baby.  It can be the result of the application of excessive pressure on the baby’s neck or significant head trauma during delivery. The improper use of mechanical aids such as forceps and vacuum devices during labor can also cause CP. If the baby’s brain is severely deprived of oxygen during childbirth, this can contribute to cerebral palsy.

My child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. What does this mean for my family?

A diagnosis of CP in your infant or young child can change your family’s life forever. To confront the challenges of living with and of raising a disabled child, you will have to draw upon your inner strength and find a determination that perhaps you did not know existed. The support you receive from relatives, friends, and coworkers will be indispensable, as will the services of social services and patient advocacy and support groups. The website has some great resources for parents of children with disability.

Do I have a medical malpractice claim for cerebral palsy?

If it is determined that your child’s cerebral palsy is the result of medical malpractice and that a physician and/or a nurse’s conduct is responsible for the lifelong difficulties your family will face, the treating hospital and staff should be held accountable and you may qualify for just compensation. Lawsuits for injuries sustained during birth, such as cerebral palsy, not only financially help the affected child and family, but also serve to improve the quality of medical care and ensure fewer errors occur in the future.

There is currently no cure for CP, but the condition is manageable. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of a birth injury, with proper medical care and some assistance at home and in school, there’s no reason he or she cannot lead a happy and productive life.

Image by Bruno via Flickr

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