Is cerebral palsy caused by medical errors?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong and serious neurological disorder that is often caused by a lack of enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Head trauma before, during or shortly after birth can be a cause. While not all cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical error, some certainly are. Medical errors or medical malpractice during labor or delivery can sometimes result in hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, or asphyxia, which is insufficient oxygen to the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that 85 to 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, or occur before or during the birth.

Cerebral palsy impairs muscle coordination and body movement. Harmful side effects of cerebral palsy can include breathing problems, trouble swallowing, speech impediment, as well as vision and hearing problems. Other side effects include cognitive impairments, seizure disorder, learning disabilities, and inability to control the bladder or bowels and more. 1 in 323 babies in the U.S. is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is according to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation.

Types of cerebral palsy

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy – The most common form of CP, it accounts for for 70-80% of cases. Symptoms include stiff and tight muscles. Those suffering from spastic cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving from one position to another. They may have trouble controlling muscles that are needed to perform tasks such as holding an object or speaking. Spasticity is due to damage to the motor cortex of the brain before, during or after birth.
  • Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – This form of CP is characterized by involuntary movements, such as twisting and repetitive movements, slow movements or unpredictable movements. It results from damage to the basal ganglia of the brain.
  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Ataxic is characterized by shaky movements that may appear disorganized or jerky, as well as a difficulty in maintaining balance. Ataxia causes an interruption of muscle control in the arms and legs, causing a lack of balance and coordination. It has an impact on the movements required for day-to-day activities. Ataxia results from damage to the cerebellum. 

Medical errors that may result in cerebral palsy

  • Failing to properly monitor the mother or infant before, during or after childbirth.
  • Failure to identify fetal distress by not properly monitoring the fetal heart rate during labor and delivery.
  • The medical mistake of failing to identify and properly treat infections in the mother during pregnancy.
  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment of maternal medical conditions or infections.
  • Failing to identify an umbilical cord prolapse, a birth complication that occurs prior to delivery. Prolapse is when the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. It sometimes getting trapped against the baby’s body.
  • Medical errors regarding cesarean sections. This can include delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency or failing to perform a cesarean section in a high-risk pregnancy. Failing to perform a C-section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally may also cause an injury. Medical mistakes relating to C-sections can lead to serious birth injuries.
  • Medical negligence in using medical instruments or equipment. This can include the improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
  • Medication errors or the uses of medication that was inappropriate or dangerous for the mother or baby.
  • Inadequate monitoring of the mother and baby when anesthesia is used.
  • Medical diagnostic errors, such as incorrect reading of test results. 

Providing a child with cerebral palsy with the appropriate care can take a toll on a family, both financially and emotionally. Cerebral palsy often requires a lifetime of care. Costly rehab, therapy and home care, as well as other medical expenses can become burdensome to an already struggling family. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or is exhibiting symptoms of cerebral palsy, and you suspect medical malpractice, contact an experienced birth injury attorney today for help. 

The burden of proof in birth injury cases 

It’s hard to imagine that with just a single medical error, an infant’s life can be permanently harmed. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a birth injury case. Therefore, a plaintiff must do more than just prove that a child suffers from cerebral palsy. A medical expert is needed to testify as to the specific cause of the disability. The medical expert will also determine whether it is a result of medical error or medical negligence. A doctor or hospital failing to provide the accepted standard of care may be a factor in a cerebral palsy birth injury. Responsible medical parties in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice case can include an OB-GYN, surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or healthcare clinic or others.

Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania cerebral palsy cases 

If you feel your child was the victim of medical negligence or has cerebral palsy as the result of a medical error you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries, as well as resulting medical treatment. It is not too late to hold the responsible medical providers accountable for their negligent actions. A statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the injured victim is a minor at the time the injury or accident occurred, such as in the event of a birth injury, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim turns 18. An injured child or minor has 2 years to file a lawsuit after they turn 18.

If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe that medical error or hospital error could have been the cause, you need to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced cerebral palsy birth injury lawyer can review the details of the case and help determine if medical negligence did cause your child’s birth injury. Medical errors leading to cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, labor and birth. They may also occur immediately following the birth of your baby.

Distasio & Kowalski medical malpractice lawyers

The birth injury lawyers at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre can help you to obtain the compensation you deserve. It is our goal to help your family overcome the lifelong difficulties associated with cerebral palsy or other birth injuries. This can include compensation for past and future medical expenses and caretaking costs, as well as for pain and suffering. We are a personal injury firm dedicated to getting injury victims the best possible legal results and holding medical professionals accountable for the harm they cause.

Read more on birth injuries and medical malpractice compensation on our website. Learn more about the early signs of cerebral palsy and screening on the CDC website.

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