When an infant or child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it changes a family's life forever. They are challenged to provide their child with all the love, education, care and therapy he or she needs to develop as full and fruitful a life as possible.
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that affects a child's muscle control. The part of the body affected is determined by the part of the brain damaged. For some, cerebral palsy means slight tremors and seizures, while for others it means total dependence on the love and care of others.
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain that typically takes place before, during or shortly after birth. The brain injury can also occur in the first few years of life.
In some instances, the cause of the damage is never known. In other cases, medical experts can pinpoint the cause of the injury and the medical steps that should have been taken that likely would have prevented the injury from occurring.
These preventable injuries include, for example, neonatal hypoxic brain injuries, which are injuries to the newborn caused by inadequate oxygen to the brain during labor or at the time of delivery.
These injuries often could have been prevented if the attending obstetrician or the obstetrical delivery team had paid closer attention to the fetal heart monitor and other indications that the mother's uterus was no longer a safe environment for the baby and the baby was in trouble. What causes the need to emergently deliver the baby before hypoxic brain injury occurs can be any number of things including, for example, a Group B Streptococcus or other bacterial or viral intra-uterine infection, an umbilical cord that has become tightly wrapped around the baby's neck, or severe malnourishment of the baby due to an aging placenta that has lost the ability to provide the baby with adequate nourishment leaving the baby unable to withstand the trauma of hours of labor. There usually are red flags that the underlying problem exists but, regardless of the cause, the biggest red flag is the fetal heart monitor tracings, which represent the baby's last cries for help.
The Resulting Costs to the Family
A 2003 Center for Disease Control study showed that the direct costs incurred in the raising of a child with cerebral palsy are typically around $920,000.
This includes medical expenses, therapy, long-term care, prescription drugs, medical equipment, inpatient hospital stays and related expenses. But that is just the beginning, a drop in the bucket, because these direct costs are only approximately ten percent (10%) of the total actual cost involved in raising a child with cerebral palsy.
Indirect expenses, not included in the CDC's study, include special education, developmental programs and home modifications. The CDC figure also does not include the value of the lost wages that result from the cerebral palsy child inability to work as an adult, or the significant limitations on what work he or she can perform as an adult. The CDC $920,000 figure also does not take into account other financial factors that every family who has been faced with raising a cerebral palsy child knows about, including outpatient hospital care, emergency room visits and residential care.
Of course, the CDC study also does not take into account what is the most important element involved in raising a cerebral palsy child, the emotional costs and enormous investment of time and energy that is made by the parents and, for that matter, the entire family when raising their special child. The extent of the parents' efforts involved in raising a cerebral palsy child often puts strain/pressure on their marriage, their other children, their careers, finances and friendships. During the course of raising their cerebral palsy child, many parents find themselves grappling with a wide variety of emotional issues, including guilt, burnout, withdrawal, shame, over involvement and even at times resentment.
If you believe your child's cerebral palsy may be due to a preventable injury, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can, with the help of medical experts, determine if that is likely the case. If your child's cerebral palsy injury should have been prevented, the next step will be to identify, with the help of both medical experts and economists, the amount of the compensation you should receive for the wrong you and your child have suffered, to make sure that the financial resources will be available to help you meet your child's present needs and to make sure your cerebral palsy child's long term life care needs will be met after you are no longer alive or physically able to provide for his or her care.