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The Most Common Motor Disability In Children Could Have Been Prevented

Picture of Harvey L. Walner & Associates, Ltd.
Harvey L. Walner & Associates, Ltd.

May 4, 2016

a boy sitting in a chair

Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious health problems caused by birth injuries and medical malpractice during labor and childbirth. Although there are a variety of factors that can cause cerebral palsy, the condition is thought to be caused by a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain during childbirth.

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy occurs usually by 18 months of age, but has a lifelong impact on affected babies and their families. One in 323 children is identified and is more common in boy than in girls. In a recent report it was stated that cerebral palsy affects nearly 10,000 newborns every year. Most children who have cerebral palsy have had it since birth, often due to a lack of oxygen to the brain or to the body, premature delivery, or birth trauma-sometimes because of a medical malpractice and delivery mistake during labor. Although when a child is born with cerebral palsy, that doesn’t automatically mean that medical malpractice occurred. In many cases, doctors act with the utmost care and responsibility when providing prenatal care and delivering a baby, and things can still go wrong. But what is troubling is that research found that 25-35% of all cerebral palsy cases could have been prevented. Medical errors during or after the delivery of a child are the cause of cerebral palsy in 35-45% of deliveries. When medical malpractice is linked to a child’s cerebral palsy, common causes include:

  • Failure to detect and or treat infections in the mother during pregnancy.
  • Failure to appropriately monitor fetal heart rate before and during labor and birth
  • Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Failure to plan and schedule a cesarean section procedure when a baby is too large to safely pass through the birth canal
  • Delay or failure in performing a medically necessary cesarean section procedure
  • Negligence and unreasonable mistakes in using instruments like a vacuum or forceps in performing a delivery.

Every case of cerebral palsy is different in the way it affects a child’s motor functions and intellectual abilities. Because of the brain damage, the child’s muscular development and coordination are affected. The physical impact of children with cerebral palsy is widely varied. Among children affected, 77% have spastic cerebral palsy, which makes their muscles stiff in movements that appear uncomfortable or awkward. 41% of children with cerebral palsy are limited in their ability to walk, run or crawl. 40% have an intellectual disability while 35% suffer from episodes of epilepsy. And 31% need to use special equipment for mobility. The unique aspect of cerebral palsy is related directly to the extent of injury to the brain or developing brain. It also depends on the time of the injury or the development of the brain if the injury occurred before birth.

The medical costs of caring for and treating a child with cerebral palsy are enormous. According to the study, the lifetime cost of care for an individual with cerebral palsy is almost $1 million.

Medical malpractice cases that stem from birth injuries and delivery mistakes can become complex from both a legal and medical standpoint. If you are looking for assistance with a potential lawsuit in regards to cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice, speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

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