Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that is characterized by some different signs and symptoms, including poor or nonexistent motor control, abnormal muscle tone, the inability to walk unaided and even mental disabilities.
Understood to be caused by damage sustained to the brain either in the late stages of fetal development or trauma during delivery, a diagnosis of cerebral palsy in a child can sometimes result in a birth injury malpractice claim being made against the doctor or hospital that delivered the child.
Diplegic Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy, as a term for a medical condition, actually comprises several different palsies that have divergent levels of severity. One of the more common forms of cerebral palsy, which is classified as diplegic cerebral palsy, is most often categorized as almost exclusively affecting the legs of a child, leading to difficulties walking without the aid of leg and ankle braces, forearm crutches, or a wheelchair in extreme cases.
In many cases, cerebral palsy does not present itself immediately at birth but requires a few months to a few years to begin affecting child development in ways that can be identified. Early symptoms of diplegic cerebral palsy include an infant not crawling, or only crawling by using their arms and not their legs; other signs that could indicate diplegic cerebral palsy include a child not being to be able to stand on their own by the age of three.
There are ways to help children with diplegic cerebral palsy strengthen their leg muscles to the point where assistive devices may not be required to allow them to walk. However, this often requires exhaustive rounds of physical therapy and massage therapy to rehabilitate leg muscles.
In some more severe cases, the only way to restore or improve a child’s range of motion in their legs is to have them undergo orthopedic surgery of some kind. Often, a child has to withstand several surgeries, which leaves them subjected to several months or even years’ worth of painful recovery during their lives.
Medical Negligence and Cerebral Palsy
Proving that a child developed cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence can be difficult at times, especially since it takes months to years for a diagnosis to be made in many cases.
To provide a better chance for caregivers or parents of children who develop medical conditions that have a delayed onset but that could be caused by birth injuries, most jurisdictions don’t hold these cases to as strict a standard when it comes to statutes of limitations.
However, with many medical professionals unable to definitively point to what causes cerebral palsy but only able to identify risk factors, sometimes it’s simply not clear enough to a judge or jury that the actions of a particular doctor or other medical professional led to the brain injury that caused a child’s cerebral palsy.
However, there are cases where it’s more likely that birth injury caused cerebral palsy. In the event of oxygen deprivation during delivery, especially in cases where an infant has its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck while being born, doctors and other medical staff have been held liable for birth injuries like cerebral palsy if they acted in such a way as to cause the oxygen deprivation or failed to act in a timely manner to prevent the injury.
In cases such as these, birth injury malpractice suits have been brought against individuals and hospitals in an attempt to seek compensation for conditions such as cerebral palsy.