Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious health problems caused by birth injuries and medical malpractice during labor or childbirth. The condition is thought to be caused by a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain during child birth.
Because cerebral palsy is often due to a lack of oxygen to the brain (called hypoxia) or to the body (asphyxia), premature delivery, or birth trauma, it is often preventable through reasonable medical care. The birth injury can often be avoided where doctors and nurses appropriately monitor fetal heart rate, detect prolapsed umbilical cord, perform medically necessary cesarean sections, and avoid mistakes using instruments like vacuum and forceps in performing a delivery.
When a child is given a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, parents typically ask themselves, “what caused this to happen to my child?” The particular cause may not be known. In such cases, it is beneficial for the family to seek a medical legal review of the circumstances surrounding the cause of their child’s condition. If the cause of the child’s cerebral palsy can be attributed to medical malpractice, the parents and child may be entitled to compensation for the injury. Such compensation can potentially be life-changing. Of most significance to families, the compensation typically includes the cost of future care needs to help the child life a long, independent life.
It is very important to know that the family of a child with cerebral palsy can have the cause reviewed at any time. There are limitation periods applicable to medical malpractice claims. For example, Nova Scotia’s Limitations of Actions Act, RSNS 1989 c 258, states that claims in medical malpractice must be initiated within two years of the termination of medical services.
Critically however, this two year period does not start until the child reaches the age of majority. This means that the family of a child with cerebral palsy can have the birth injury investigated and commence a claim for care needs at any point until the child turns 21 years old.
Cerebral palsy is a long-term chronic medical condition that requires long-term supportive care services. The family of an individual with cerebral palsy is likely to incur significant expenses related to the ongoing need for medical care, special education services, developmental assistance, and assisted living. Given these costs, and given that funding can provide a much greater quality of life for the family and child, it would be prudent for the family of the of a child with cerebral palsy to have the cause investigated through an experienced medical malpractice law. As mentioned, this can be done any time before the child turns 21 years old.