Was your Child’s Cerebral Palsy Preventable? Unanswered Questions

We are often asked by parents of children with cerebral palsy whether or not their child’s cerebral palsy may have been preventable with appropriate medical care. This is a question rarely addressed by the child’s treating physicians. Answering this question involves bringing together the medical opinions of a variety of carefully selected medical specialists who must each contribute their opinion on discrete areas of the medical care provided or the injury suffered by the child. Since this does not impact upon the medical treatment being provided to the child, this typically does not occur in the clinical setting. One exception is when the hospital performs a Quality Assurance Review in response to potential concerns about the quality of the medical care provided to a pregnant mother and/or her child; however, the results of these investigations are kept confidential and are not disclosed to the parents of the child with cerebral palsy.

This leaves many parents with unanswered questions. While they may receive fragments of information from various physicians, over the years an exhausted parent’s battle for answers quickly becomes displaced by the daily battle for resources such as therapy, support and equipment. The unanswered questions, however, continue to weigh on the parent’s mind, resurfacing from time to time, only to be buried again by weight of the day-to-day needs of their child.

We are frequently contacted by these parents – sometimes within weeks of their child’s birth, but often many years later. Parents always ask the same question: “Could my child’s injury have been prevented?”

It is understood that cerebral palsy can occur as a result of various medical conditions that are well-known and preventable with appropriate medical care. Some examples we are familiar with are as follows:

During Pregnancy :

  • Failure to diagnose and treat illness in the mother such as high blood pressure;
  • Failure to diagnose and treat symptoms such as maternal bleeding;
  • Failure to properly monitor the growth and development of the fetus; and
  • Failure to fully inform the mother of the risks associated with a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian section) delivery.

During Labour and Delivery :

  • Failure to properly monitor the fetal heart rate, and respond appropriately to signs of potential fetal distress;
  • Failure to properly administer oxytocin;
  • Failure to intervene to expedite the delivery of the baby when progress has slowed or stopped;
  • Failure to anticipate and properly manage shoulder dystocia; and
  • Failure to perform a caesarian section in a timely manner to avoid brain injury to the baby.

After Birth :

  • Failure to diagnose and properly treat certain conditions in the baby including hypoglycemia, jaundice and infection; and
  • Failure to properly administer medication, nutrition and/or fluid.

In these circumstances, if we are able to prove that a child’s cerebral palsy was preventable with appropriate medical care, the child is entitled to receive a significant financial settlement to allow the parents to provide for their child’s care, support and therapy, to help their child reach their full potential in life.

It is also understood that cerebral palsy can occur for reasons that are not (yet) understood by modern medicine and in circumstances in which it was not preventable. In these cases, knowing the child’s injury was nobody’s fault, can help relieve any anger or guilt parents may be feeling, and help them to put the circumstances of their child’s birth behind them, and to focus on their child’s future.

Either way, parents often feel it is better to know, rather than to continue to wonder.

If you are a parent of a child with cerebral palsy and have unanswered questions, please feel free to contact us. We will carefully review your concerns with you, conduct a detailed review of the medical records and consult with our experts (depending on the circumstances of each individual case), in order to answer your questions and determine if your child may be entitled to financial compensation.

We will review your case and answer your questions without charging you any fees for our investigation.

You may contact us at 604-685-2361 or toll free at 604-685-2361, or you may visit our website at www.pacificmedicallaw.ca

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