Birth Injury Representation in Vancouver
Each year, thousands of children born in Canada suffer from cerebral palsy, a disorder that involves damage to the part of the brain that controls motor skills. Children who are born with cerebral palsy suffer physical impairment, which is often profound and permanent. For parents, the challenges in caring for such a child can be overwhelming, and the financial burden may be even more difficult.
Cerebral palsy may or may not be due to negligence on the part of the medical team attending the delivery. Pacific Medical Law has a lengthy and established record of determining the cause of the infant’s cerebral palsy and, in appropriate cases, obtaining judgments and settlements on the child’s behalf. Our lawyers believe in holding doctors and hospitals accountable when their negligence has led to a birth injury. If your child was born with a birth injury that you suspect was caused by malpractice, contact our firm to learn more.
Experienced Cerebral Palsy Lawyers in British Columbia
There are many ways that negligence can result in cerebral palsy, including:
- Improper use of vacuum extraction or forceps in a delivery
- Failure to detect a problem with the umbilical cord
- Failure to respond to fetal distress
- Failure to perform a Caesarean section in time
- Failure to properly treat seizures following childbirth
- Improper monitoring of a baby’s vital signs during labour or delivery
Unfortunately for the child, the result of these errors can be a lifelong debilitating health condition. The impact of cerebral palsy for both parents and children cannot be overstated. The motor and sensory impairments can be extremely debilitating for children, while the grief and exhaustion of providing round-the-clock care can be daunting for parents.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
The medical definition of CP is a non-progressive disorder of movement and/or posture, caused by an injury or anomaly of the fetal or developing brain. Cerebral palsy is often accompanied by a disturbance of sensation, perception, and/or cognition.
The effects of CP vary widely from individual to individual. In its mildest form, CP may result in a slight awkwardness of movement or hand control. At its most severe, CP may result in virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech.
Depending on the location and severity of the brain injury, an individual with CP may have the following:
- Muscle tightness or spasm;
- Involuntary movement;
- Difficulty with gross motor skills such as walking or running;
- Difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and speaking;
- Abnormal perception and sensation;
- Feeding difficulties;
- Learning disabilities;
- Developmental disabilities; and
- Vision and/or hearing problems.
No two children with cerebral palsy are alike – every child is unique in his or her abilities and disabilities.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is divided into three broad categories, depending on the location of the brain injury, as follows:
- Spastic cerebral palsy – This type of cerebral palsy is the most common type and affects about 80% of all children with cerebral palsy. Children with this type of cerebral palsy experience tightness which limits movement in one or more muscle groups.
- Choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy – This type of cerebral palsy affects about 10% of children with cerebral palsy. Children with this type of cerebral palsy may experience involuntary, purposeless movements, especially in the face, arms, and trunk. These movements often interfere with speaking, feeding, reaching, grasping, and other skills requiring coordinated movements. These children often have low muscle tone and have problems maintaining posture for sitting and walking.
- Mixed-type cerebral palsy – This type of cerebral palsy affects about 10% of children with cerebral palsy. Children with this type of cerebral palsy have a combination of both spastic muscle tone and involuntary movements.
The severity of these motor problems and the parts of the body affected vary greatly with each child.
Signs of Cerebral Palsy or birth injury in the first few months of your baby’s life
Signs of cerebral palsy or birth injury may show up immediately following your child’s birth, or not for several months. Generally speaking cerebral palsy usually becomes evident when the child reaches 6 ½ to 9 months of age and is starting to move his or her limbs.
In the first few months of life, an infant with brain damage may have some or all of these symptoms:
- Jittery, uncoordinated movements, or asymmetrical movements;
- Difficulty feeding, in particular, difficulty with sucking and swallowing fluids;
- Irritability and abnormal high pitched cry;
- A very exaggerated startle response to a loud noise or sudden movement;
- Apnea (irregular breathing pattern, or periods when your baby stops breathing);
- General lack of alertness or lethargy; and
- Abnormal muscle tone (i.e. either very floppy or very stiff).
If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, you should raise your concerns with your family physician or pediatrician.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the result of injury to the brain. There are many possible causes for the brain damage.
- Developmental Malformations – The brain damage may be due to failure of the brain to develop properly during the pregnancy. These problems are generally referred to as developmental malformations. Causes for developmental malformations are frequently unknown, but can include genetic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, or problems with blood supply to the brain.
- Neurological Damage – The brain damage may be caused by a reduction or lack of blood supply to the baby’s brain before, during, or after birth.
Was your child’s Cerebral Palsy caused by medical negligence?
Cerebral palsy may be caused by injury to the baby’s brain during pregnancy, during labour and delivery or during the first few years of life.
In some cases, the brain injury may have been preventable with appropriate medical treatment. Examples of how preventable brain injuries can occur include:
a) Failure to diagnose and treat illness in the mother such as acute fatty liver of pregnancy or pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure);
b) Failure to respond to signs of preterm labour;
c) Failure to diagnose and properly treat symptoms (such as maternal bleeding) of placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta covers a portion of the cervix and leads to bleeding as the cervix dilates) or placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall); or
d) Failure to properly monitor a twin or multiple gestation pregnancy.
During Labour and Delivery
a) Uterine rupture during a vaginal birth following a previous caesarian section (VBAC);
b) Failure to treat a herpes infection in the mother, and take appropriate measures to avoid transmission of the virus to the baby during delivery;
c) Failure to detect and respond to a non-reassuring fetal heart rate during labour;
d) Failure to properly administer oxytocin during labour;
e) Failure to detect and respond to tachysystole (excessive contractions) during labour;
f) Failure to intervene to expedite the delivery of the baby when progress has slowed or stopped;
g) Failure to properly manage an operative vaginal delivery (i.e vacuum or forceps); or
h) Failure to recommend a caesarian section.
a) Failure to diagnose and properly treat certain conditions in the baby including:
- hypoglycemia (low blood sugar);
- hyperbilirubinemia (high bilirubin levels); or
- infection, such as encephalitis or meningitis; or
b) Failing to properly administer medication, nutrition or fluids.
How can we help a family with a child living with Cerebral Palsy?
Parents of children with cerebral palsy are often overwhelmed with the demands placed upon them, and can become emotionally, physically and financially drained. They also want answers – why did this happen to my child? Could it have been avoided?
By drawing on our experience and knowledge in the area of birth injuries, as well as on our well established working relationships with highly qualified and well regarded medical experts who are prepared to provide objective opinions to the court, we are able to provide answers to parents. Following our review of all of the medical information, we are able to give parents our advice on whether or not starting a lawsuit would be in the best interests of the child and their family.
While a financial settlement cannot change the challenges that a child with cerebral palsy will face throughout his or her life, it can ensure the child gets the therapy, care and support he or she will require to reach his or her full potential. Financial settlements also go a long way in easing the demands on the parents, so that the parents can spend less time juggling these demands and spend more time just being a parent.
A client of ours recently wrote to us following a settlement of her daughter’s birth injury case. She wrote, “The stress level that we have been operating under has been a massive thing to be lifted off our shoulders and we both feel such a huge sense of relief.”
You can refer to our Cerebral Palsy Resource Toolkit for answers to your questions, along with recommendations regarding CP.
Pac Med Cerebral Palsy FAQs
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a condition that can arise from a birth injury. It is often the result of a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen to the baby at some point during the labour and delivery.
It is not one thing as much as it is a group of disorders that show most of their effects on movement, muscle tone, posture and intellectual abilities. It can often be difficult to tell exactly what caused cerebral palsy in a specific child, but one recognized cause is a lack of oxygen to the brain known as birth asphyxia.
Are There Different Types Of Cerebral Palsy?
The medical community officially recognizes four distinct types of cerebral palsy:
- Spastic Cerebral Palsy. This is the most common type. This type of CP most often affects the muscles, making them either too loose, too tight, or difficult to control.
- Dyskinetic (pronounced dis-ki-NET-ik) cerebral palsy. This type of CP involves slow and uncontrollable jerky movements of the hands, feet, arms, or legs. People with this form of cerebral palsy may have trouble sitting or walking but usually don’t exhibit intellectual problems.
- Ataxic (pronounced a-TAK-sik) cerebral palsy. This form of the disorder affects balance and depth perception. People with ataxic cerebral palsy walk in an unsteady manner and have a hard time with quick or precise movements such as writing, buttoning a shirt, or reaching for a book.
- Mixed cerebral palsy. There are some who suffer from some mix of two or more of the symptoms from the various types of CP. Therefore, it is possible for someone to fit into more than one of the above groups.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy can affect different people in many different ways. Symptoms will usually start to show up during an infant’s preschool years. Symptoms may affect the entire body, be limited to one half or one section of the body, or even affect just a single limb.
Symptoms may include:
- Variations in muscle tone, such as being either too stiff or too floppy
- Stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity)
- Stiff muscles with normal reflexes (rigidity)
- Lack of balance and muscle coordination (ataxia)
- Tremors or involuntary movements
- Slow, writhing movements
- Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting up or crawling
- Favouring one side of the body, such as reaching with one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
- Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes, a crouched gait, a scissors-like gait with knees crossing, a wide gait or an asymmetrical gait
- Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
- Difficulty with sucking or eating
- Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
- Learning difficulties
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up utensils
What Are The Causes Of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality or disruption in brain development. The problem most often occurs before a baby is born. In many cases, the exact cause is not known. Factors that can lead to problems with brain development include:
- Gene mutations that lead to abnormal development
- Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
- Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain
- Bleeding into the brain in the womb or as a newborn
- Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain
- A traumatic head injury to an infant from a motor vehicle accident or fall
- Lack of oxygen to the brain related to difficult labour or delivery
If you believe we may be able to help you and your family, please call us so that we can discuss the unique circumstances of the birth of your child, and how this may have affected his or her development. Please contact our British Columbia office to learn more about cerebral palsy, birth injuries and medical malpractice representation, or call us for a free initial consultation at 604-685-2361.