$9,600,000 to a Child With Cerebral Palsy, Vision Loss and Profound Developmental Difficulties

In South Carolina, Elizabeth Viele brought a lawsuit against the Tuomey Regional Medical Center for damages relating to the delivery of her child. A jury found that the hospital had erred and was liable for her untimely delivery.

Elizabeth’s child is now six years old. She is blind and has a vocabulary of only six words. Seizures afflict her, and doctors have diagnosed her with cerebral palsy. The seizures began soon after she was born. Doctors gave her a CT scan and discovered severe and permanent brain damage.

The delivery was a complicated one. During contractions, the fetus’s heart slowed down. Despite this, the doctor ordered Pitocin for the mother. Pitocin is a drug that intensifies contractions which carried the potential of worsening the existing fetal heart rate problem.

The contractions lasted through the night, but by the next morning the baby’s heart rate had stopped. Doctors delivered the baby through an emergency Caesarean Section, but in order to revive Elizabeth they had to give her oxygen. It was soon afterwards that they discovered the brain damage incurred while the heart was stopped.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs because of brain damage to a fetus or recently born infant. It is the most common disability in childhood. The result of the brain damage is that the muscles of the affected child do not function as they should. Cerebral palsy can affect only one side of the body or the entire body.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy has a number of possible causes – some of them are due to medical malpractice, while others are not the fault of the medical team.

Low levels of oxygen during gestation or birth. An oxygen-starved brain will begin to die. If the brain goes too long without oxygen, damages will affect a person’s ability to function. During gestation and more often during delivery, the fetus can become distressed, which can interfere with the delivery of oxygen to the brain.

Low blood levels. Even if the blood is well oxygenated, if that blood does not get to the brain in sufficient quantities, the brain will be starved for oxygen. The result is the same as if the blood itself were oxygen-poor: the brain will incur damages and start to die.

Physical injuries. Lack of oxygen, the sustenance of the brain, is not the only thing that can damage it. Actual physical injuries can also hurt the brain and limit its ability to function. One common cause of brain damages in infants is improper use of forceps during delivery.

Blood conditions. Certain blood ailments can affect the nutrition sent to the brain and damage it. Jaundice, for instance, is a blood affliction that increases the risk of cerebral palsy. Jaundice is detectable by a yellowing of the skin. If hospital staff detect jaundice in a newborn, they must treat the condition immediately to not compromise the child’s health and cerebral functioning.

Abnormal birth conditions. Many abnormal birth conditions can interfere with a child’s ability to get oxygen to the brain. If there are multiple babies in the uterus, the competition for oxygen can leave one with the short end of the stick. A breech birth can compromise the flow of oxygen to the brain, and premature birth also elevates the risk of cerebral palsy.

Diseases. Some diseases cause an increase in cases of cerebral palsy, including Rubella, Zika and chicken pox. Certain sexually transmitted diseases like Herpes and Syphilis can also cause cerebral palsy.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

While a brain scan is the ultimate determiner, cerebral palsy has certain indicative characteristics. An infant or young child with symptoms may have cerebral palsy and will need a thorough check up to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Lack of coordination. Also called ataxia, a child with cerebral palsy will not have the motor skills of a normal child.
  • Involuntary movements. Children with cerebral palsy will often display jerky movements they cannot control.
  • Exaggerated reflexes. The reflexes of a child with cerebral palsy are often overly large. This is called spasticity.
  • Muscle stiffness. Children with cerebral palsy may seem tense, like they cannot relax their muscles.
  • Difficulty eating. Lack of motor control makes it difficult to chew and swallow. The child may drool excessively.
  • Low muscle tone. Children with cerebral palsy may seem weak as well as uncoordinated.
  • Delayed developmental milestones. The child will likely speak his or her first words and take his or her first steps later than in children without the disorder.
  • Slow, writhing movements. The child might make slow, writhing movements also called athetosis.
A Serious Condition

Cerebral palsy is a serious, life-altering condition. A child with cerebral palsy has a severely reduced life expectancy, and the life they will have will be challenging and limited. They will not develop normally either in a physical or mental sense. In short, they will struggle to lead what we recognize as a normal life.

Victims of medical malpractice who have had their chance at a normal life taken away from them deserve compensation, and juries routinely recognize this. The causes of cerebral palsy are well-known and doctors need to take all necessary steps to avoid the condition for their patients.