Giving birth to a child should be a joyous occasion; a milestone in a mother’s life. Unfortunately, some births are not conducted properly and the mother gives birth to a child who is left with a permanent, life-altering injury known as cerebral palsy. Doctors sometimes refer to this as a “hypoxic-ischemic brain insult” or “hypoxic brain injury” to describe the events that lead to irreversible brain damage and long-term neurological problems in a child. It’s also known as cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a dysfunction of the motor system (portion of the central nervous system involved with movement), but can also affect posture, and muscle tone. Cerebral palsy is both non-progressive and permanent, according to Dov Apfel, author of Clinical Markers Establishing A Causal Relationship Between Birth Asphyxia and Cerebral Palsy: A Primer for Trial Lawyers.
Whenever certain conditions interfere with normal blood flow to the brain, a state of “fetal distress” can occur. It may be acute or chronic and may be precipitated by maternal or fetal conditions that should have been diagnosed and treated by the attending clinicians. Either way, it can result in irreversible brain damage.
The main question to be considered when contemplating whether medical malpractice is present is could this condition have been prevented given the right care? The answer is quite often yes because the lifelong condition of cerebral palsy is typically associated with injuries that occur immediately before, during, or for a short period of time after birth.
When a child is inflicted with cerebral palsy during birth, it likely raises the issue of medical malpractice because the mother is in the direct care of a physician at the time, operating under the guidelines established by the hospital procedures.
Acts of negligence that can result in a child suffering cerebral palsy include a failure to properly assess fetal distress in the womb, the misuse of forceps, a failure to perform an emergency cesarean (i.e. C-section), and hospital conditions or staff training that mishandled the infant.