Is Cerebral Palsy Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Is Cerebral Palsy Caused by Medical Malpractice? The birth of a child should be one of the happiest moments in a family’s life. Unfortunately, that happy moment can turn tragic in a moment of negligence by the medical professionals tending to the delivery. There are several conditions that a child can develop due to a traumatic birth, but perhaps the most common one is cerebral palsy.

Many risk factors can lead to the development of this condition, including medical malpractice. From ignoring maternal conditions to using birthing instruments incorrectly to missing key symptoms of other medical conditions once the child is born, medical professionals, while necessary, are far from infallible. It is important that if you think your child developed cerebral palsy due to a traumatic birth brought on by medical malpractice, you should seek out the advice and guidance of a medical malpractice attorney.

What is cerebral palsy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define cerebral palsy (CP) as a group of disorders that are “caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain that affects a child’s ability to control his or her muscles.” This disorder usually becomes noticeable during the child’s infancy or when they are a toddler. Symptoms include: “Impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or spasticity of the limbs and trunk, unusual posture, involuntary movements, unsteady walking, or some combination of these.”

While doctors used to think that cerebral palsy was mostly caused by lack of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery, newer research suggests that lack of oxygen only accounts for very few CP diagnoses. CP can develop before birth, during, shortly after birth, or in the first few years of the child’s life – all during the ages when the child’s brain is still developing.

Cerebral palsy affects a child their entire life, and there is no known cure for it, though there are treatments to help live with it as comfortably as possible. Your child will need special (sometimes invasive) tests to diagnose their condition. The most common type of cerebral palsy is spastic cerebral palsy. Treatment includes several types of medications, injections, therapies (movement, occupational, speech, recreational), and possibly even surgical procedures.

Can medical malpractice cause cerebral palsy?

Medical malpractice is when the health professionals in charge of your care act in a negligent way that causes you injury. Medical malpractice is often the cause for cerebral palsy, although other causes and risk factors include: low birthweight, premature birth, infections during pregnancy, medical condition of the mother, and birth complications, such as the umbilical cord becoming wrapped around the child’s neck during pregnancy or delivery.

Of all the cases of medical malpractice in the United States, over five percent of those cases are obstetrics-related – that is, relating to care during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Instances of medical malpractice that can lead to CP in your child include:

  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). HIE occurs when the infant does not get enough oxygen to its brain during labor and delivery, causing brain damage. The infant’s airway might be blocked in some way if the physician neglects to anticipate the possible birth complications.
  • Failure to diagnose or treat maternal conditions. Whether that’s from failing to tell a mother to avoid food with mercury or missing that the mother suffers from seizures, there are several conditions that the mother may have that increase the risk for cerebral palsy in their child that the doctor should know about.
  • Neglect to monitor the progress of delivery or react to complications. Failure to notice breathing problems, jaundice (signifying poor liver function), or seizures in the infant after delivery can lead to CP.
  • Failure to or delay in ordering a Cesarean section. Insisting on a traditional birth, or failure to recognize that a Cesarean section is required may lead to a long and traumatic birth which can significantly raise the risk of the child developing CP.
  • Negligent use of forceps or vacuum. Improper or negligent use of delivery assistance tools such as forceps and vacuums can cause skull fractures, which in turn can cause brain trauma.
  • Mistakes during surgery or with anesthesia. Using certain anesthetic measures can lead to complications such as the infant passing meconium (which can lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy).
  • Having an untrained team. If one person on the birth and delivery team makes a mistake either by being neglectful or untrained, it can lead to complications and birth injuries of all sorts, including cerebral palsy.

It goes without saying that often during traumatic deliveries, the mothers may be injured as well as the infant, so it is important that you seek out the help of a professional and educated birth injury or medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

If your labor experience was traumatic, long, or caused you or your child injury, and now you suspect that your child has cerebral palsy, then you need to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. You will be paying for years to come because of the negligence and incompetence of the medical team in charge of your pregnancy and/or delivery. The life of you and your child will be filled with unique challenges that may stress, frustrate, and sadden you and your loved one.

Do not let yourself pay needlessly for a mistake that was not yours. The Kennewick medical malpractice attorneys at Telaré Law are confident in our ability to represent you, and ensure that you secure the compensation you deserve. Let us help. To schedule an appointment with an attorney, call us at 509-737-8500 or use our contact page. We serve the Tri-Cities and all of Southeast Washington out of our Richland and Kennewick offices.