Can Cerebral Palsy Be the Result of Medical Malpractice?

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a permanent developmental disorder that affects how people move and maintain their balance. The Mayo Clinic says cerebral palsy usually happens prior to an infant’s birth and has many potential causes, including medical malpractice

Infant illnesses, delivery complications, toxic exposures, and infections are some of the many possible contributing factors to cerebral palsy. However, medical malpractice is the cause that is due to negligence. If your child was born with cerebral palsy or developed it shortly after birth, medical malpractice could be the reason. 

How Medical Malpractice Might Cause Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy could have many causes that medical professionals should have prevented. The misuse of medical tools during delivery is an obvious example. If a doctor uses forceps that causes a head injury that leads to the onset of cerebral palsy, medical malpractice clearly occurred. 

Other common ways in which a newborn might develop cerebral palsy from medical malpractice include failing to:

  • Diagnose or treat an infection
  • Recognize and treat abnormal bleeding
  • Address abnormal heart activity

Medical malpractice often is harder to detect and could be difficult to prove in a lawsuit. A thorough investigation into the matter could help to reveal whether the child developed cerebral palsy because of medical malpractice or by natural causes. 

Other Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy

A variety of illnesses or injuries to your child might lead to the onset of cerebral palsy. The potential for natural causes could make it much more difficult to determine whether medical malpractice occurred. 

A fetal stroke prior to delivery might cause unknown brain damage to an unborn child. Gene mutations could lead to improper development that results in cerebral palsy. 

If an infant suffers from a lack of oxygen that causes cellular damage to the brain or suffers from a variety of naturally occurring infections, cerebral palsy could occur.

Many infants also could be more vulnerable to the onset of cerebral palsy after delivery. Low birth weight; a long and difficult delivery; or giving birth to twins, triplets, or more babies, could make an infant more prone to developing cerebral palsy. 

There is no assurance that any particular issue would cause cerebral palsy. Each occurrence could have a variety of factors that conspire to cause the child to develop cerebral palsy. 

Four Types of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy has no known cure. However, the symptoms could become more manageable with a combination of specialized treatment and medication. A variety of surgical procedures also might help. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are four main types of cerebral palsy that might afflict your child. Those four types are:

  • Ataxic, which affects coordination and balance
  • Spastic, which causes stiff movements
  • Dyskinetic, which could cause uncontrolled movements and interfere with movement of arms, hands, legs, and feet
  • Mixed, which produces mixed symptoms 

There are no set standards of care for cerebral palsy. Treatment procedures are decided on a case-by-case basis. More than one medical specialist likely would provide care. 

Ongoing physical therapy could help your child to gain better control of the effects of cerebral palsy. Speech and language therapy could help with personal communications. In addition, occupational and recreational therapies could help your child to improve motor skills and become more mobile. 

Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is difficult to initially spot and diagnose in newborns. Most cases are not confirmed until several months to about a year or longer after birth. If the symptoms and common signs of cerebral palsy are mild, it could take a couple of years to diagnose cerebral palsy. 

The Mayo Clinic says common signs of cerebral palsy include stiff muscle movement combined with exaggerated reflexes that medical doctors refer to as spasticity. Spasticity is the most common type of movement disorder that accompanies cerebral palsy. 

If your child has stiff muscles but normal reflexes, that could be a condition called rigidity. Difficulty maintaining balance and poor muscle coordination also are common signs of cerebral palsy. If your child has tremors or makes involuntary jerking movements, that also could be a sign of cerebral palsy. 

If your child shows any such signs, you should notify the doctor. A pediatrician or another specialist could conduct a variety of painless tests to diagnose your child’s condition. 

Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy

A variety of medical diagnostic tools could help doctors to determine if your child is afflicted with cerebral palsy. The diagnostic tools could help doctors to determine the condition of your child’s brain and whether cerebral palsy is likely. 

Brain scans using MRI and cranial ultrasound could help to identify lesions or brain abnormalities that might indicate cerebral palsy. An electroencephalogram (EEG) test could record the brain’s electrical activities. The EEG could help to tell whether the brain wave pattern is normal.

Blood, urine, and skin tests might help to identify any metabolic or genetic issues that might support the development of cerebral palsy. Testing your child’s vision, hearing, speech, movement, and other medical conditions could help to identify the existence of cerebral palsy. 

Once cerebral palsy is diagnosed, doctors could determine its extent and type. That will help them to select the wide variety of treatments that are available to help your child.

High Cost of Cerebral Palsy

Raising a newborn is very costly. If your newborn is afflicted with cerebral palsy, the CDC says the medical cost is about 10 times higher than what you normally would spend to raise a healthy newborn. 

Cerebral palsy is a permanent condition with no known cure. Because it affects newborns and very young children, the lifetime costs to treat individuals afflicted with cerebral palsy are very high. 

On top of normal living costs, the CDC says anyone who is afflicted with cerebral palsy will have an additional $1.5 million in lifetime costs. Those costs include the cost to see a variety of specialists for various treatments. 

Medications that help to manage cerebral palsy and potential surgical procedures add to the lifetime costs. So do repeated visits for physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

Medical advancements could help to better manage the effects of cerebral palsy. However, with no cure in sight and the lifetime effects, it is very important to hold responsible parties liable when medical malpractice is the underlying cause. 

How to Prove Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice could be difficult to prove in cases of cerebral palsy. However, there are legal mechanisms that could help you to present a strong claim. Any diagnosis of cerebral palsy could provide the first key piece of evidence that you would need to prove your child is the victim of medical malpractice. 

Cerebral palsy is a very specific injury and is a clear indicator of harm that might have been done via medical malpractice. Your child’s medical records and eventual diagnosis of cerebral palsy could hold the keys to building a strong case for medical malpractice. 

If your newborn suffered any kind of head injuries during delivery, there likely is a medical record. Your doctor should have discussed any such medical conditions if they arose. If your child suffered from an infection, cranial bleeding, or other conditions and the medical staff was negligent in treating the condition, that might show medical malpractice. 

There are many types of medical evidence that could help to show that your child suffered from improper medical care that led to an eventual diagnosis of cerebral palsy. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer could help you to build and present the strongest possible case involving cerebral palsy. 

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help to Build Strong Cases

If you believe your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy because of improper medical care, reach out to the experienced Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our legal team will thoroughly investigate the care your child received and hold medical professionals and systems liable for medical malpractice. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.