PALSY AND MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
A SUMMARY OVERVIEW
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a physical disability. It is not a
disease, but instead a condition. It occurs due to injury to the brain during, before, or
after birth. The brain controls all that we do, and different parts of the brain control
the movement of every muscle of the body. In cerebral palsy, there is damage to, or lack
of development in, one or more of these areas of the brain. "Cerebral" refers to
the brain and "palsy" to the lack of motor control. Cerebral palsy is not
progressive, communicable, or a primary cause of death. It is not curable in the accepted
sense, although a person with cerebral palsy often responds to therapy and training.
What are some of the symptoms or deficits of cerebral
Cerebral palsy affects people very differently
depending upon on where and how much damage was done to the brain. Some of the problems
associated with cerebral palsy are: poor muscle control; lack of coordination; muscle
weakness; awkwardness or clumsiness; impairments in speech, hearing, and vision; seizures;
muscle spasms; balance problems, swallowing problems; and inability to control elimination
How can there be medical malpractice related to a cerebral
Cerebral palsy can occur because of improper or negligent
medical care, but it can also occur for reasons unrelated to medical care. Oxygen
deprivation or damage to the brains cerebral cortex can cause brain damage and
cerebral palsy. Some examples of how cerebral palsy might have resulted from improper
medical care include:
- Failure to recognize and treat high risk pregnancy or
- Failure to have an obstetrician and/or pediatrician or
neonatologist involved in a high risk pregnancy or labor/delivery.
- Failure to prevent, recognize, or treat infection.
- Inappropriate use of Pitocin, a labor stimulation drug, and/or
failing to properly administer and/or monitor the effects of it during labor. Some
potential contraindications for induction therapy include abnormal fetal position or
presentation, cephalopelvic disproportion, previous uterine scars, and/or a history of
previous traumatic delivery.
- Failure to adequately monitor and interpret the heart tones of
the fetus and the contractions of the mother, and failure to intervene when these signs
demonstrate dangerous conditions to the mother or fetus.
- Failure to provide in-labor resuscitative measures, such as
positioning of the mother and/or the administration of oxygen, when necessary.
- Failure to timely prepare for and perform a Cesarean section
if circumstances require because a vaginal delivery would be hazardous to either the
mother or the baby. Some of the circumstances that may require a Cesarean section might
be: cephalopelvic disproportion; prolonged or arrested labor; uterine or placental
dysfunction; obstruction of the birth canal; if the baby is particularly large or in a
transverse or breech presentation; and fetal distress, such as abnormalities in heartbeat,
post-term pregnancies, presentation of a compressed, prolapsed, or otherwise compromised
cord, or other indications that the fetuss oxygen supply is in jeopardy.
- Performing a protracted forceps delivery of a breech position
- Improper use of vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery.
- Excessively aggressive manual rotation and/or application of
- Failure to properly treat an infants respiratory
distress after birth.
- Failure to properly manage neonatal fevers after birth.
- Failure to perform a timely exchange transfusion after birth
because of blood incompatibilities.
- Failure to admit an infant with a high temperature to the
- Failure to be aware of, and correct, obstetrical anesthesia
- Failure to treat significant jaundice in newborn infants with
phototherapy and special types of blood transfusion.
- Failure to recognize and respond to labor/delivery
emergencies, such as placenta abruptia or ruptured uterus.
- Failure to recognize and treat the mother's high blood
pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, toxemia, diabetes, problems with her thyroid, or other
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