Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy, also known as “CP” among medical professionals, is a condition that is marked by abnormalities in muscular strength, coordination, and in reaching developmental milestones such as walking or grasping objects. CP can range in severity from mild interference with walking or motor skills all the way to a lifetime of total dependency and the need for around-the-clock nursing care. In some cases, there are learning disabilities that accompany CP, but these disabilities may not become obvious until the child enters elementary school.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

At its structural level, CP is due to a brain injury that is the result of cerebral hypoxia, a condition in which the brain does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen. Although there are many possible causes of hypoxia, the brain cells that control movements are very easily damaged by low oxygen levels. It is this damage that leads to the symptoms of CP. These symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

  • Problems with sucking and swallowing.
  • Abnormal muscular spasms or lack of muscular tone.
  • The infant may assume abnormal positions while at rest.
  • Small muscles in the arms and/or legs.
  • Delay in reaching developmental milestones such as standing and walking.

Although CP may occur in the absence of other conditions, it has been noted that CP is often found in the presence of other conditions. In the Chicago metro area, these are the medical conditions that are known to be associated with CP:

  • Premature birth.
  • Difficult or poorly-progressing labor.
  • Admission to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
  • Heart defects that are present at birth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Seizures that begin shortly after birth.
  • Neonatal jaundice (yellowish color in the skin and/or eyes)

Medical Malpractice Law and Cerebral Palsy

Many parents will suspect that medical malpractice may have played a role in their child’s later development of CP. While it is certainly the case that improper care of the mother during labor and of the infant during the neonatal period may have been a factor in CP, there must be evidence that such malpractice did occur. Medical malpractice, although it may be difficult to prove, may have occurred if a supervising physician failed to meet the accepted reasonable standard of care in doing the following:

  • Detecting a birth defect in the prenatal period.
  • Anticipating the development of complications of pregnancy.
  • Adequately monitoring the progress of labor.
  • Adequately monitoring the unborn infant’s heart rate or cord oxygen levels for signs of distress.
  • Resuscitating the infant at the time of delivery.
  • Arranging for specialist care of the infant following delivery.

There are, of course, many other situations that could have been the result of medical malpractice. However, such questions are usually quite complex and may necessitate professional assistance of both medical and legal professionals. While medical professionals can diagnose and treat health problems, an attorney can help with identifying whether any malpractice has occurred and pursue compensation in appropriate cases. Medical malpractice attorneys are experienced with gathering available information and records from hospitals and making determinations as to whether legal action is viable in a case.

In summary, the question of whether or not medical malpractice led to a brain injury that caused Cerebral Palsy can be difficult to resolve. If a child has Cerebral Palsy and it is suspected that the condition may have been due to medical malpractice, it may be advisable to contact a Chicago personal injury attorney with experience in birth injuries. Only a comprehensive review of factors such as the birth history, associated medical conditions in both the child and mother, and the prevailing standards of medical care can determine if parents or their child are entitled to compensation for injuries suffered during the birthing process or in the neonatal period.