Articles Posted in Cerebral Palsy

Most focus on preventable birth injuries is on what happens during the actual birth itself. We have repeated often how injuries like cerebral palsy and erb’s palsy are sometimes caused by excessive force or failure to account for fetal distress in a timely fashion. These are the “textbook” examples of medical negligence causing an injury at birth, and at those times the civil justice system can be used to ensure accountability and compensation.

Yet, what about proper care in the hospital once the child is already born? The same principles of reasonable care free of errors applies in those cases as well. Yet, some are pointing to a new study as an example of how far many facilities still have to go to provide proper medical to infants, particularly those in the most frail conditions

Nursing Levels and Infections

Recently, RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio broadcasting agency, published a harrowing story involving a mother whose fight for justice for her brain damaged daughter finally came to fruition. The High Court of Ireland ruled that the daughter should be awarded 1.3 million euros, as she sued the Health Service Executive through her mother. The Health Service Executive is responsible for the oversight of all provided health care and social services to the people of Ireland.

Her fight began the day of her birth over four years ago. The daughter’s mother claimed that hospital staff used large amounts of a specific drug intended to artificially induce labor. She also claimed the methods used to deliver her baby were subpar, and that her aftercare while at the hospital was entirely inadequate. Her daughter now suffers from cerebral palsy, and is severely brain damaged, allegedly due to the events at the hospital during her birth.

More Money Overseas

There is still no “cure” for the many forms of cerebral palsy. While stem cell therapies offer hope that one day damaged parts of the body which create cerebral palsy can actually be re-grown properly, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding this option. In fact, some scientists are warning against buying into some scams where the unscrupulous convince families to pay tens of thousands of dollars for stem cell “therapies” that may serve no purpose. There is no still no guaranteed right or wrong answers for families when deciding what treatment options to consider. But at the very least it is important to receive advice from trusted, experienced medical professionals.

Also, recognition that some options, like stem cell therapies, are still in their early stages, does not mean that families are without recourse to help their loved one who has cerebral palsy recover. In fact, research is now coming in regarding the long-term benefit of certain surgical methods which offer hope for all those battling CP.

Surgical Benefits Hold Up

We often explain how birth injury lawsuits are critical to ensuring those affected have access to as many resources as necessary for the rest of their lives to recover as much as possible from the injury. For example, when it comes to cerebral palsy, those who are able to purchase specialized equipment, have close nursing care (if necessary), and access of extensive rehabilitation services have far better outcomes than those that do not.

However, it is also important to reiterate that many birth injuries, including cerebral palsy, have no actual cure. Most advancement has to do with better dealing with the consequences or adapting to them. Actually curing the underlying injury is not possible.

For now.

Cerebral palsy is perhaps the most recognized birth injury. There are many different types of this harm that usually affects children during the birthing process itself. Most Illinois community members are affected by cerebral palsy at some point, perhaps with their own child developing it or with friends or family members whose child has cerebral palsy.

The widespread awareness of the condition comes with one benefit: a growing number of residents are working hard to ensure that children with cerebral palsy are accommodated whenever possible so that they do not miss out on any aspect of childhood or community living in general. Combined with advances in the design and manufacture of technologies and tools to help account for challenges, those with cerebral palsy have a good a chance as ever before to live full lives with minimal adaptations as a result of physical or cognitive impairments.

None of this is to say that the injury is sometimes not debilitating. But it is important to recognize the progress that has been made in recent decades to bring all community members into the fold, including those who suffer birth injuries like CP.

The variety of medical malpractice cases is more extensive than most imagine. Considering the total number of births that occur each year, many somewhat unique cases of mistakes, confusion, and preventable harm will occur. That is not to say that there are not clear legal trends when it comes to types of malpractice that lead to lawsuits and accountability. For example, delayed C-sections and use of excessive force are likely the two types of professional negligence that most often lead to the filing of an actual birth injury lawsuit. That is probably because those injuries are the most common, can often be proven in court, and come with significant consequences for those affected requiring compensation

Unique Birthing Malpractice

While excessive force and oxygen deprivation resulting in the development of cerebral palsy are the birth injuries that often make-up newspaper headlines and blog posts–there are others.

Birth injury cases are civil lawsuits usually alleging medical malpractice. As we often point out, verdicts and settlements in these cases are sometimes higher than other matters, because the consequences of the injury have effects over a lifetime. For example, if a child with cerebral palsy needs special equipment, medical care, and more over the course of five or six decades, then the costs will be incredibly high. For this reason it is possible, though not necessarily common, for these cases to come with verdicts or settlements of seven figures or more.

Types of Damages in Birth Injury Cases

People often associate all large verdicts with “punitive” damages. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate a victim for their specific harm but instead seek to punish the wrongdoer. It is helpful to understand that large verdicts in birth injury cases almost never involve punitive damages. Instead, they refer to compensatory damages–to “compensate” the victim.

Judgments and verdicts in cases alleging birth injuries caused by medical malpractice frequently make headlines. That is not necessarily because these cases occur all the time, but because the judgments are more sizeable than in some other cases. Awards are often large because they are based on compensation over the course of one’s life as a result of the harm. For children just born, the years that they will be affected by the injury are significant, increasing the damages.

Birth Injury Damages

Of course, because of the size of some verdicts, these cases are often pointed to by “tort reform” advocates as a sign of “jackpot justice.” Those wishing to take away the legal rights of injured patients find value in plucking out random birth injury decisions and using them as some sort of “proof” that legal rules have to be changed.

When a lawsuit is filed in the aftermath of a child being born with an injury–including things like cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, and similar conditions–it is usually because the medical team involved in the birth did not follow proper protocols which might have prevented the harm. When these accidents strike, a child is often forced to spend the rest of their lives grappling with the consequences of the error. In some cases the error is fatal and a new life is snuffed out before having a chance at all.

Sadly, these birth errors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medical mistakes that strike across the country. As our attorneys have often pointed out, reports indicate that upwards of 100,000 deaths every year in the U.S. may be attributed to medical mistakes of one kind or another. These are staggering numbers that have not declined even though the problem has been documented for decades.

Clearly more awareness is needed to push for change. It is with the goal of awareness that a new documentary film focused on medical errors is attracting Kickstarter donors. Kickstarter is the web’s most popular crowdfunding site where anyone can easily money to help support various projects.

Unfortunately, there remains little to be done to “cure” cerebral palsy or reverse any of the cognitive or developmental challenges faced by those who develop the condition. While access to proper therapy and equipment can make a big difference in terms of quality of life and societal functioning, they are a far cry from actual reversals of the birth injury.

However, many families who have youngsters with cerebral palsy continue to hold out hope that at some point down the road medical advances will change all of that and open the door to possible cures or significant improvement. There have already been some hints at how they might develop, and one promising area involves new surgeries that can significantly improve the mobility of many children with cerebral palsy.

Another area receiving significant attention relates to “cord blood.” For example, a KVOA story shared information on a local family whose two year old was born with cerebral palsy which causes significant feeding and breathing issues. As all families in similar situations understand, these issues present severe challenges–it is never easy to raise a child and ensure they reach their full potential, especially with these added medical challenges.

Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards Winner
The National Trial Lawyers
Elder Care Matters Alliance
American Association for Justice
Fellow Litigation Counsel of America
Super Lawyers