Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy: Preventable Mistake or Not?
Posted by Howard Janet on Oct 24, 2012 in Medical Malpractice
Parents whose children have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and who suspect medical error played a part usually have some basis for their suspicion. What was supposed to be a routine delivery turned into a nightmare. Their child spent time in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), or experienced seizures. Doctors and nurses were vague about answering questions.
Still, they aren’t sure if what they suspect is true, or if they are only seeking relief from the agonizing question of “could we have prevented this from happening to our child?” These parents come to me seeking help uncovering the truth.
Medical Negligence is Linked to Serious Birth Injuries
When parents approach me about possible birth injuries, I begin by telling them that it is well established that medical negligence is a cause of serious birth injury. I explain that most often, birth injury medical negligence cases arise from avoidable delay in delivering babies who are not being adequately oxygenated during the labor and delivery process.
While the exact number of instances where medical negligence causes cerebral palsy is not known, we do know that up to 23% of babies who develop cerebral palsy do so because of prolonged periods of inadequate oxygenation during labor and delivery. The total number of injuries that could and should have been prevented is not clear; however, making a determination as to whether medical negligence is to blame on a case by case basis is often possible.
Some Basic Questions
As an attorney who has reviewed some 15,000 cerebral palsy cases, here are basic questions I ask parents who suspect their child has suffered a preventable birth injury:
- What was the condition of your child at birth (breathing, crying, moving or limp and needing resuscitation)?
- Did your child have an extended hospital stay after birth?
- If so, was your child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?
- Did your child have an abnormal ultrasound, CT-scan, or MRI of the brain?
- Did your child experience seizures during the first few days of life?
- Has your child been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or brain damage?
- Do you have copies of your child’s medical records?
If parents answer yes to one or more of the above questions, I probe further.
- Did electronic or other fetal monitoring reveal abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate, or did some other event occur that signaled the baby was in distress?
- Did the mother experience any vaginal bleeding at any time, or unusual pain in between contractions?
- During labor and delivery, were substantial and repeated measures taken to improve fetal oxygenation such as oxygenating the mother, turning her on her side, or giving her IV fluids; or were drugs administered to slow or calm contractions?
- Was an emergency cesarean section or an assisted vaginal delivery (with a vacuum extractor or forceps) required?
- When parents asked questions about labor and delivery complications, were they sidestepped or stonewalled, or were health care providers forthright with information?
Determining if Medical Errors May Be to Blame
A “Yes” answer to any of these questions may lead me to suspect that medical negligence was involved in a child’s cerebral palsy. In that case, my firm would take steps to obtain your child’s medical records and begin the search for the truth behind what happened.
Sometimes, we determine that no one was at fault. This, in of itself, can be greatly relieving to parents. They didn’t do anything wrong. There’s nothing they could have done. There is nothing any health care provider did wrong. The cause of some cerebral palsy is still not completely understood, but knowing it was not human error is a huge relief and allows families to move on.
Pursuing Legal Action
If our investigation shows that medical error likely played a part in your child’s cerebral palsy, we may sign you as a client. You can be sure we will use all the resources at our command to get you the compensation you deserve and will need to take care of your child for life.
If you believe your child may have suffered a birth injury, contact our office to discuss your potential case.