Cerebral Palsy – When is it Due to Medical Negligence?

Cerebral Palsy is a group of chronic disorders that primarily affect a person's motor skills, muscle tone and movement. A person with cerebral palsy may not be able to walk, talk, eat or function like an ordinary person. They are likely to have problems with their balance and co-ordination and may suffer from severe learning difficulties. Cerebral Palsy (sometimes referred to as CP) results in long-term difficulties, which may be both physical and mental. Sometimes the baby may have hearing problems or visual difficulties. Around one in three children with CP will go on to suffer from epilepsy.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by an injury to the brain. While it can be inherited or genetic, Cerebral Palsy can also occur as a result of a medical accident or mistake and the most common time for this to happen is before, during or shortly after the baby's birth. This is known as a birth injury. It can be caused as a result of trauma because the baby is perhaps in an unusual position or too big to pass easily through the birth canal. The baby is starved of oxygen resulting in damage to the brain. This is referred to as hypoxia.

A doctor / midwife owes what is called a duty of care to both the mother and unborn baby during pregnancy and childbirth. They have an obligation before, during and after the child's birth to ensure that everything proceeds correctly and without error. Sadly however mistakes do happen and if the proper procedures are not followed and the standard of care is below an acceptable level, the results to the child and parents can be devastating. This may give rise to a claim for clinical negligence compensation.

Possible indications of medical error or accidents resulting in Cerebral Palsy include:

– The baby being left in the birth canal too long causing a lack of oxygen to the brain
– Incorrect use of forceps to deliver the baby
– Failing to respond and treat high or low blood pressure in the mother
– A failure to recognise early enough that the baby is in distress during the delivery and a failure to perform a caesarian section
– A failure to notice that the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck causing starvation of oxygen to the brain
– A failure to notice that the baby's heart rate is erratic
– A failure to have a pediatrician present at the birth when there are obvious signs of fetal distress resulting in the baby not being resuscitated quickly enough or correctly

Cerebral Palsy does not always result in severe disabilities but when it does it can sometimes result in a child needing additional help and support. A child may require long-term nursing and medical care. As well as the emotional distress caused to the family there is the added pressure and worry of the cost of caring for the child. Often special equipment and adaptations to the home will be needed and it is not uncommon for a parent to have to give up work in order to care for their child with cerebral palsy.

If you believe that your child has suffered physical or mental disability as a result of a medical error or negligence it may be possible to claim compensation. Compensation will not resolve the medical issues but it may ease the financial burden by providing the money to pay for care, rehabilitation, equipment and specialist medical treatment.

Head injury UK are specialist solicitors who can assist with investigating cases of birth injury and considering whether the condition has been caused by a failure of appropriate medical care. Contact us for a free, confidential, no obligation enquiry with one of our experienced solicitors.