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Cerebral Palsy and Medical Error

Stethoscope and GavelCerebral palsy is a relatively common disorder that affects a number of different bodily systems. Its primary cause is oxygen deprivation, either in utero or during the birthing process. While sometimes this simply happens, due to unknown factors or to circumstances of the mother’s, it can also be a result of medical error in prenatal care or at birth. If you believe you have been victimized, you may be able to obtain compensation.

Cerebral Palsy Facts and Figures

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects approximately 2.1 children per 1,000 live births. It is most often diagnosed in early childhood, with a host of symptoms possible; it will vary widely from person to person. Common symptoms of CP include:

  • Stiff or weak muscles, often causing problems with reaction time;
  • Swallowing problems;
  • Vision or hearing problems, depending on what area of the brain was most affected;
  • Tremors, of varying severity; and
  • Other issues of movement or balance.

It is as yet unknown what may make one child more susceptible to CP than another; risk factors may include premature birth, being a twin or an underweight child, and having been conceived through fertility drugs. Generally, CP is not degenerative, meaning that the symptoms do not worsen with age. However, some children are born with fairly severe cases that may directly impact their quality of life. CP is not usually diagnosed until the child is at least a few years old, but symptoms may appear as early as a few months after birth. Treatment for symptoms does exist, but the underlying condition is incurable.

What Is Malpractice and What Is Bad Luck?

Not every incidence in which a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy constitutes medical malpractice, and it is important to know the difference. If a doctor does everything right, adhering to the prevailing standard of medical care for a professional of similar age, experience and ability, they will generally be held to have acted appropriately. Malpractice requires negligence or recklessness; there must be questionable conduct (or a questionable omission) to raise the spectre of fault.

Some situations in which CP may result from a malpractice issue include:

  • Delay in performing necessary procedures such as cesarean section;
  • Failure to diagnose infections and diseases in the mother at the prenatal stage (for example, rubella or meningitis can adversely affect the protein count in the fetal brain during later development);
  • Misuse or inappropriate use of instruments like forceps or vacuum extractors;
  • Failure to detect birth emergencies such as a prolapsed umbilical cord; and
  • Other situations in which the most careful techniques are not employed.

If, for example, a doctor failed to perform a cesarean section, and it was later determined that a cesarean section was not medically necessary, it is unlikely that a finding of malpractice would result.

Be advised that in California, if you do intend to sue a health care provider, you must provide them with 90 days’ notice of that fact, or your complaint may be dismissed. The statute of limitations on most medical malpractice actions is one year (though in some cases, it may be as long as three years), but if 90 days’ notice would result in the statute being exceeded, the statute will be extended for 90 more days.

Experienced and Compassionate Attorneys Can Help

Though people with cerebral palsy are capable of living full, rewarding lives, this does not mean that if someone caused the condition, they should not be held liable. The skilled San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. understand the difficult position that medical negligence may put your family in, and we will work hard to provide you with every option available to obtain compensation for your ordeal. We are available via telephone to discuss your options. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Benito, Alameda and Monterey.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.