By Osborne & Francis
January 19, 2023

Can Cerebral Palsy Be Caused by Medical Malpractice?

There is nothing more exciting for couples than the birth of their child. Their expectations for their new baby knows no bounds, but their biggest hope is that their child will be carried to term and born healthy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. There may be complications during pregnancy or childbirth that can cause a baby to develop cerebral palsy. Sometimes, those complications are a result of medical malpractice.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a serious health problem often resulting from not enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Its impact on the child and parents is lifelong, emotionally and financially. While some babies are born with cerebral palsy through no fault of anyone, about 10 percent of babies born with it developed it due to medical mistakes. That may not seem like a big number, but to those affected by cerebral palsy, it’s huge.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that impedes muscle coordination and body movement. While there are numerous factors that can result in cerebral palsy, regarding birth injuries and cases of medical malpractice, the most common reason is a deficient amount of oxygen reached the baby’s brain during labor or delivery.

Most children who have cerebral palsy were born with the condition, whether caused by malpractice or other factors, although it may not be diagnosed by doctors for the first few years of life. Cerebral palsy is considered a non-progressive condition, which means that it doesn’t get worse over time. It occurs in about three out of every thousand births in the nation.

When Medical Malpractice Leads to Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is often caused by hypoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain), asphyxia (insufficient oxygen to the body), premature delivery, or trauma during birth. All of these causes can result from medical malpractice and mistakes made during labor or childbirth.

However, just because a baby is born with cerebral palsy, it doesn’t always mean that medical mistakes have been made. There are times that doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals act with the greatest care while attending to mother and baby, and there are still negative outcomes. But when medical negligence is the cause of cerebral palsy, these are the most common mistakes:

  • failure to monitor the fetal heart rate appropriately during labor and childbirth
  • failure to identify and treat infections in the mother during her pregnancy
  • failure to identify a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • failure to schedule and perform a cesarean section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally
  • delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency
  • other negligence or mistakes in using medical instruments like forceps or vacuum during delivery

Once the baby is delivered and it is discovered that he or she has suffered a lack of oxygen, there is often still time to prevent cerebral palsy from developing if the doctor acts quickly. Time is critical – every moment that passes without the baby having enough oxygen increases the risk of cerebral palsy. One way that oxygen deprivation can be helped is with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the baby being placed in a chamber that is full of 100 percent oxygen, which floods the tissue and slows the trauma to the brain. This treatment can lessen or eliminate the baby’s case of cerebral palsy.

If a doctor doesn’t act quickly or opts to not use hyperbaric oxygen therapy (when it is available), then the subsequent case of cerebral palsy can be found to be the doctor’s fault.

Taking Care of a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Taking care of a child with cerebral palsy is costly, can take a toll on the family emotionally, and it often requires a lifetime of care. That care, which includes medical expenses, therapy, home care, rehabilitation, and more, can easily reach $1 million in a lifetime. If the condition was caused by medical malpractice, a lawsuit can be filed which holds the responsible party liable for his or her negligence and provides compensation to the child and the family.

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and you suspect that there was medical malpractice involved, contact medical malpractice attorney, Joe Osborne, at (561) 293-2600 for an evaluation of your case.

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