November 8, 2012

Horrific Abuse of Child with Cerebral Palsy Leads to Criminal Charges

by Levin & Perconti

There is a misconception among some that negligence cases, including those related to birth injuries, are all about revenge or punishing those that make mistakes. However, that is not at all true. Instead, the entire focus of the civil justice system relates to compensation for losses--not hurting the negligent party, but helping the injured party recover. In fact there is a reson that the damages award in these case are called "compensatory" damages. It is only in incredibly rare situations where "punitive" damages are awarded which are meant to punish the wrongdoer.
In the birth injury context, of course, the purpose of the case is to ensure the injured child has access to the high-quality resources they need to live a full and healthy life, regardless of their injuries.

What is often forgotten is that when those professionals who cause injuries are not required to pay for the consequeneces of those injuries, then the burden falls on taxpayers. The Medicaid system, for example, is often required to pay for support for those injured at birth. Ultimately then, if those responsible for the injury do not pay, then all of us pay for care.

But sadly, public resources are rarely able to provide the best quality care. That is because funds are incredibly tight for virtually all governing programs. As a result, resources going to those enrolled in programs in Medicaid are often the bare minimum. Those families hoping that their child would have the best care possible rarely suggest that public funds provide that best care.
In fact, in some case, when an injured child does not have access to adequate resoures, they may be more likely to fall victim to obvious neglect and abuse. The results are horrific.

Abuse of Child with Cerebral Palsy
This was demonstrated in a recent article in the Washington Post which delved into the sentence in a criminal case involving a nurse for a child who had cerebral palsy. The nurse was charged with providing care to the girl at her parent's home six days a week. However, that care was not provided. In fact, it seems that the nurse bascially did nothing, allowing the 14-year old girl to essentially starve to death. The teen died last year. She weighed only 28 pounds when she passed. On top of that, investigators noted that she had many bedsores on her body and was living in "filthy conditions." The coroner in the case apparently said that this was the "worst malnourished child" that his office had ever seen.

The prosecutor in the case noted that the nursing had a responsibility to care for the girl. Obviously, with severe cerebral palsy, the child was entirely dependent on that care. When that duty was utterly neglected, then the child suffered dramatically.

Criminal charges were filed against both the girl's mother and the nurse. The mother is currently serving a nine year prison sentence. In this case the nurse pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter shortly before her trial was set to begin. She was enventually given the maximum sentence--ten years in jail--after the plea.

Legal Help Following Birth Injury
Of course, none of this is to suggest that this sort of utter neglect is common for those children who are forced to receive support via public resources. However, it is fair to say that there is likely a big difference in the amount of care that a birth injury victim receives when they have outside resources versus those using a public program. That is not because of the lack of quality of caregivers providing support but instead a reflection of the incredibly tight resources that these agencies are forced to work with on occassion.

See Other Blog Posts:
Birth Compications Rising in the U.S.?

Cerebral Palsy Develops After Delayed C-Section