Can Cerebral Palsy Be Caused by Medical Malpractice?


The brain is arguably the most important organ in a person’s body because it controls bodily functions as well as cognitive processing. The brain, as with all organs, needs oxygen to thrive. When a baby’s brain is denied adequate levels of oxygen, brain damage can occur. That brain damage can result in cerebral palsy, which impedes a person’s ability to perform cognitively, control bodily functions, control voluntary movements, maintain balance and to move. The nomenclature derives from cerebral (having to do with the brain) and palsy (weakness or problems with muscles).   


Can cerebral palsy be caused by medical malpractice?


Yes, cerebral palsy can be caused by medical malpractice. In fact, there are various different forms of medical malpractice that can lead to cerebral palsy.


         Failure to detect potential dangerous hypoxia before, during, or after the birth. As mentioned above, a baby’s brain needs oxygen to thrive. “Hypoxia” is when the brain does not receive adequate levels of oxygen. If a doctor fails to realize that the baby is experiencing potential hypoxia – or, if the doctor does realize it and fails to do anything to prevent the hypoxia through urgent delivery and/or other resuscitative measures – that doctor has likely committed medical malpractice.


         Failure to detect (and timely treat) infections. Infections can range from mild to severe, but in all cases of a baby suffering an infection, the doctor must detect it early in order to be able to properly administer antibiotics or other therapeutic medicine. If the doctor fails to timely diagnose and treat an infection, the baby could suffer brain damage and cerebral palsy and/or other brain injuries.


         Failure to perform caesarean section where indicated. Sometimes a vaginal birth is not possible or safe and the baby is better off being delivered by caesarean section (or c-section). A c-section is where the doctor strategically cuts the mother’s abdomen and uterus so as to remove the baby safely from the uterus. A c-section may be indicated where the mother has a medical condition that prevents her from safely delivering her baby vaginally. A c-section may also be indicated when the traditional labor methods aren’t working – the labor isn’t progressing fast enough, the baby is too large to leave the mother’s body vaginally, the umbilical cord is pinched, the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, the baby is in distress, etc. Medical malpractice can occur when c-section is indicated to keep the mother and baby healthy and safe, and the doctor fails to perform the c-section in a timely manner, or at all.


         Negligently performing the delivery. There are many ways a doctor can commit medical malpractice during the childbirth process. They could use excessive force in extracting the baby from the uterus or from the vaginal canal, they could twist the baby’s body in a way that causes injury, they could misuse the various delivery tools (forceps, vacuum extractor, scissors, clamps, specula, etc.), they could fail to properly monitor the baby’s heartbeat, etc.


Whatever actions or inactions led to your baby’s cerebral palsy or brain injury, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at VSCP Law to discuss whether you have a valid claim for medical malpractice.

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