Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability that affects movement. It is a permanent life-long condition and is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy, labour or shortly after birth.
The incidence of Cerebral Palsy worldwide is said to be approximately 1 in 500 live births. Quite often, parents do not know that their baby has Cerebral Palsy until their child starts to exhibit difficulties with physical development. In babies, some of the signs include:
- Low muscle tone (baby feels ‘floppy’ when picked up)
- An inability to hold up his/her own head while lying on their stomach or in a supported sitting position
- Muscle spasms/ involuntary muscle movements
- Stiffness or paralysis
- Poor muscle control, reflexes and posture
- Delayed development (such as being unable to sit up or independently roll over by 6 months)
- Feeding or swallowing difficulties
- A preference to use one side of the body
In toddlers, indicators of Cerebral Palsy include not walking by 12-18 months or an inability to speak simple sentences by 24 months.
Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of childhood physical disability and is believed to affect approximately 34,000 Australians. There are different categories of Cerebral Palsy and the main types are:
- Spastic CP – meaning stiffness of tightness of the muscles. This is the most common type of cerebral palsy
- Athetoid CP – where there is a lack of control over the body’s movements
- Ataxic CP – a term used to describe a lack of balance or co-ordination.
- Mixed Type CP – where more than one motor pattern is present
For many people with cerebral palsy, the cause is unknown but it is usually associated with injury or damage to the brain during development. Some risk factors have been identified and include:
- Premature birth (less than 37 weeks)
- Low birth weight (small for gestational age)
- Blood clotting problems (thrombophilia)
- An inability of the placenta to provide the developing fetus with oxygen and nutrients
- RH or A-B-O blood type incompatibility between mother and baby
- Infection of the mother with German measles or other viral diseases in early pregnancy
- Bacterial infection of the mother, foetus or baby that directly or indirectly attacks the infant’s central nervous system
- Prolonged loss of oxygen during the pregnancy or birthing process, or severe jaundice shortly after birth.
Some research indicates that only a very small percentage of cerebral palsy cases are due to complications at birth (e.g. birth asphyxia or lack of oxygen). Other studies suggest that asphyxia at birth remains the primary cause.
We have conducted many cases over the years where complications during labour and birth have occurred, causing brain injury and resultant Cerebral Palsy.
Legal issues which arise in this area include:
- Whether the labour and delivery were managed appropriately;
- Whether steps were taken to deliver the baby in a timely manner and as soon as signs of birth asphyxia became apparent
- Whether risk factors for the development of Cerebral Palsy were appropriately identified and managed during pregnancy and labour.
How Can We Help?
If you are looking for information or help in relation to the issues around Cerebral Palsy, we can help you navigate the process. Our health law team is highly respected in the area, with specialist knowledge accumulated over 25 years.
Our team can assist you by providing expert advice and legal support regarding your options. Contact us today on (02) 4929 3995 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.catherinehenrylawyers.com.au
*The material provided in our information sheets is for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for independent legal advice. For further information about the issues affecting you, please contact one of our experienced and professional lawyers for expert advice.