Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the conditions that parents fear most. It’s a permanent, often debilitating condition that will affect every part of their child’s life going forward. More importantly, many cases of cerebral palsy could have been avoided.
According to a recent study performed by NHS Resolution, at least one in twelve cerebral palsy cases may be avoidable. The study suggests that the actual number may be even higher. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of this condition, how studies suggest CP cases could be avoided, and what you can do if you think your child’s CP was caused by medical negligence.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
The general definition of cerebral palsy is abnormal brain development that impacts a child’s ability to move and control their muscles. The fundamental causes of CP aren’t always clear. According to the Mayo Clinic, reasons for CP include:
- Genetic mutations: Sometimes, a fetus suffers from a genetic mutation that ensures the brain will never develop normally, leading to unavoidable CP.
- Fetal strokes: A fetal stroke is an interruption of blood to a fetus’s brain in utero, caused by anything from genetic abnormalities to maternal injuries.
- Maternal infections: If a mother is infected with diseases like Zika, rubella, syphilis, or toxoplasmosis, it can lead to inflammation of the fetus’s brain and harm its development.
- Infant infections: Newborns can also develop CP from diseases like bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis, or severe jaundice.
- Traumatic head injuries: If an infant suffers a head injury during birth, a fall, or a car accident, it can permanently damage the brain.
- Oxygen deprivation: The most well-known cause of CP is birth asphyxiation. This is an avoidable problem most often caused by medical negligence, where the child fails to get enough oxygen to their brain while being born. Medical professionals can cause this by failing to pay attention to signs of fetal distress or ignoring mothers in labor.
Understanding the NHS Resolution Study
The NHS Resolution study was a retrospective study focused on the rates of cerebral palsy cases compared to successful CP negligence claims. It did not filter CP cases based on cause, so all CP diagnoses were included, including those caused by genetic mutations and post-birth accidents. The study used a Freedom of Information Act request to determine how many cerebral palsy cases occurred between 2010/2011 and 2020/2021. It found that, on average, about one successful negligence claim was made for every twelve CP diagnoses.
However, this doesn’t mean that only one in twelve CP cases are caused by negligence. The actual causes of CP are complicated. Some cases of CP are entirely unavoidable due to genetic factors. Others have more complex roots, with physical injuries leading or contributing to the disability. Unless there is a clearly identifiable genetic or infectious cause of a CP diagnosis, negligence may have played a role.
The NHS Resolution study isn’t the only one focusing on the number of preventable CP cases. An analysis performed in 2013 found that most birth asphyxia cases were caused by human error. That means that any CP cases caused by birth asphyxia almost certainly involved medical negligence. As such, it appears that non-genetic, non-infectious cases of CP in newborns are significantly more likely to involve negligence than the NHS Resolution study suggests.
How Cerebral Palsy Impacts Lives
Cerebral palsy can have a wide range of effects on your baby, depending on which parts of the brain are damaged. Symptoms can range from mild, affecting one limb or side of the body, to severe, affecting every aspect of your child’s development. They may include:
- Stiff muscles that are difficult to control
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Poor balance and coordination
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
- Delayed speech development
- Intellectual disabilities
- Hearing damage
- Vision problems
- Behavioral and emotional disorders
These conditions are typically permanent. They can be treated with physical and behavioral therapy but cannot be cured. Children with CP will experience lifelong symptoms due to how the damage impacts their brain’s early development.
What You Can Do If Your Child Suffers from Cerebral Palsy
If your child suffers from avoidable CP, you may be able to hold negligent medical professionals accountable. Follow these steps to determine whether your child’s CP may have been avoidable and take legal action against the responsible parties.
- Identify the cause of your child’s CP: Considering the wide variety of possible reasons behind CP, the first step is to determine why your child may have developed the condition. If you or your baby suffered an infection or traumatic accident before their diagnosis, that is most likely the cause. You can also get genetic tests to confirm whether your child has any abnormalities affecting their development. If you can rule out those causes, you have a strong argument that your child’s CP may have been caused by medical negligence.
- Request copies of relevant medical records: The next step is to get copies of your own and your baby’s medical records. These should include the names of people involved when you were in labor. They should also include relevant details about the birth, including your vitals and any signs of fetal distress.
- Consult with a medical malpractice expert: Finally, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your situation. Genuine medical malpractice attorneys will help you understand your medical records and your child’s condition. They can also guide you through the process of taking legal action against the negligent medical professionals who harmed your baby.
Fight Back Against the Medical Negligence That Causes Cerebral Palsy
At least one in twelve cases of cerebral palsy appears to be caused by medical negligence, and the actual number may be much higher. If you think your child’s CP diagnosis was caused by a medical professional’s negligence, you should take action. Get in touch with the expert team at the Law Offices of Michael Oran, APC, to get your free consultation today. They can help you take the next steps in your journey to hold irresponsible healthcare workers accountable for the harm they’ve caused your family.