Understanding Cerebral Palsy
Understanding the cause of a child’s cerebral palsy and whether or not it was preventable with appropriate medical care is a question rarely addressed by the child’s treating physicians. Answering this question involves bringing together the opinions of a variety of carefully selected medical specialists who must each contribute their opinion on discrete areas of the medical care provided or the injury suffered by the child. Since often this does not impact upon the medical treatment being provided to the child, this typically does not occur in the clinical setting. One exception is when the hospital performs a Quality Assurance Review in response to potential concerns about the quality of the medical care provided to a pregnant woman and/or her baby; however, the results of these investigations are kept confidential and are not disclosed to the parents of the child with cerebral palsy.
This leaves many parents with unanswered questions about why their child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. While they may receive fragments of information from various physicians, over the years an exhausted parent’s battle for answers quickly becomes displaced by the daily battle for resources such as therapy, support and equipment. The unanswered questions, however, continue to weigh on the parent’s mind, resurfacing from time to time, only to be buried again by the weight of the day-to-day needs of their child.
It is understood that cerebral palsy can occur as a result of various medical conditions that are well-known and preventable with appropriate medical care. Some examples include:
During Pregnancy :
- Failure to diagnose and treat illness in the mother such as high blood pressure;
- Failure to diagnose and treat symptoms such as maternal bleeding during pregnancy, or during induction of labour;
- Failure to properly monitor the growth and development of the fetus; and
- Failure to fully inform the mother of the risks associated with a TOLAC (trial of labour after caesarian section) or VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian section) delivery.
During Labour and Delivery :
- Failure to properly monitor the fetal heart rate, and respond appropriately to signs of potential fetal distress;
- Failure to properly administer oxytocin;
- Failure to intervene to expedite the delivery of the baby when progress has slowed or stopped;
- Failure to anticipate and properly manage shoulder dystocia; and
- Failure to perform a caesarian section in a timely manner to avoid brain injury to the baby.
After Birth :
- Failure to provide prompt and appropriate resuscitation;
- Failure to diagnose and properly treat certain conditions in the newborn, including:
- Failure to monitor and treat newborn jaundice;
- Failure to diagnose and treat infection in the newborn; and
- Failure to properly administer medication, nutrition and/or fluid.
In these circumstances, if it can be shown that a child’s cerebral palsy was preventable with appropriate medical care, the child is entitled to receive fair and reasonable financial compensation to allow the parents to provide for their child’s care, support and therapy, to help their child reach their full potential in life.
It is also understood that cerebral palsy can occur for reasons that are not (yet) understood by modern medicine and in circumstances in which it was not preventable. These cases include congenital brain malformations, genetic abnormalities and others. In these cases, knowing the child’s injury was nobody’s fault, can help relieve any anger or guilt parents may be feeling, and help parents put the circumstances of their child’s birth behind them, and to focus on their child’s future.
Either way, parents often feel it is better to know, rather than to continue to wonder.
If you have questions about the cause of your child’s cerebral palsy, then please contact us – we would like to help. We have a team of experienced lawyers and medical specialists who can review the medical care your baby received and help answer your questions. We will provide you with the information and advice you need to make informed decisions about your child’s future and ensure your child’s rights are protected. Rest assured – the consultation is confidential and free of charge.
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