CEREBRAL PALSY IS A PERMANENT NEUROLOGIC INJURY TO THE BRAIN OFTEN CAUSED BY LOW OXYGEN OR INFECTION BEFORE, DURING OR IMMEDIATELY AFTER BIRTH. IT CAN BE THE RESULT OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE.
By Paul Dansker Esq. and Jason Molesso Esq.
The general “Cerebral Palsy” refers to several neurologic conditions resulting from injury to the brain. If the brain is damaged in areas of motor functioning, physical injuries may occur; such as “Spasticity” or tightness of muscle groups. If the brain is damaged in areas of cognitive functioning, mental or emotional injuries may occur; such as “Developmental Delays” and learning disabilities. Most often, Cerebral Palsy causes both physical and cognitive injuries, and although these injuries may improve with proper therapy, they are permanent and will affect a child’s physical health, ability to take care of themselves, earning potential, and overall happiness for the rest of their lives.1 Unfortunately, medical literature has documented cases of Cerebral Palsy caused by Medical Malpractice that occurred before, during and after a child’s delivery.2
The brain damage that results in Cerebral Palsy is caused by: 1) “Hypoxia” or low oxygen; 2) Infections like Group B Strep or Herpes; and 3) Direct trauma. Hypoxia can occur before delivery, for example, in cases of maternal bleeding or placental problems. Hypoxia can occur during delivery, for example, by compression of the umbilical cord before the baby is fully delivered or traumatic delivery. And Hypoxia can occur after delivery, for example, when the baby has respiratory problems. Infections can cause Cerebral Palsy in several ways such as direct infection of the baby with bacteria or viruses caught from the mother; or where the mother’s immune system attacks the baby’s immature brain. Babies born prematurely, or before 38 weeks gestation, are at much greater risk of developing Cerebral Palsy because their nervous and immune systems are under-developed.
Cerebral Palsy’s effects differ with each case, but there are common injuries that can occur. The physical injuries associated with Cerebral Palsy include “Spasticity” and/or “Dystonia.” Spasticity is a tightening of muscle groups that impairs normal function; for example, “Spastic Dyplegia” is where the muscles of the legs are so tight that walking is either impaired or impossible. Dystonia is either an abnormal weakness in various muscle groups (Hypotonia) or an abnormal rigidity (Hypertonia). Some children have Hypertonia of the arms and legs and Hypotonia of the trunk so that they cannot sit without support. The cognitive effects of Cerebral Palsy are called by various names that include Developmental Delays, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Mental Retardation, Learning Disabilities, etc. Other injuries associated with Cerebral Palsy are Seizure Disorders, Strabismus (Crossed-eyes), difficulty eating and swallowing, increased susceptibility to infections and other medical conditions, etc. And both physical and emotional pain that will last forever.3
Cerebral Palsy can be a preventable injury, but that always causes permanent disability and pain.
Proper medical care to prevent Cerebral Palsy includes: 1) Close monitoring of both the mother and the baby both before, during and after birth; 2) The use of Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring; 3) Screening of the mother for various diseases including Group B Strep and Herpes; 4) Preventing prematurity when possible; and 5) The ability to perform a Cesarean Section delivery if the baby cannot be safely delivered naturally.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)4 is a national organization of Obstetricians; and it is the Obstetricians that most often are negligent and cause Cerebral Palsy. In recent years, ACOG has attempted to explain cases of Cerebral Palsy caused by other means than the Medical Malpractice of its members. The most common alternative explanations put forth by ACOG are that it’s “Genetic” or just “Unknown.” These alternative theories are not accepted by all in the medical community; and even some courts have held that these alternative theories are “Junk Science.”
A child with Cerebral Palsy caused by Medical Malpractice and deserves their day in court represented by an attorney with experience in Medical Malpractice cases involving Cerebral Palsy.