Can Cerebral Palsy Be Caused by Doctors?

Birth Injury, Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Information, Legal Help

Grayscale flippant doctor wearing red clown nose in front of red text that reads 'Meet Doctor Error'

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder seen in children. Some cases are identified shortly after birth, while others are not diagnosed until the child is older and their lack of motor control and skills becomes more noticeable.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a set of conditions that are caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls motor function. Congenital cerebral palsy is caused when a baby’s brain is damaged as it is developing in the womb. This can happen in a number of ways, such as the expectant mother contracting an illness during pregnancy or complications leading to an early delivery.

Can Cerebral Palsy Be Caused by Doctors?

Sometimes, a hypoxic brain injury may be caused by mistakes or negligence on the part of the medical professionals involved in a baby’s delivery. Damage can be caused by errors made on the part of the delivery team, such as:

  • Allowing labor to continue for too long, including delaying a cesarean section, which causes oxygen deprivation
  • Insufficient monitoring of mother and/or baby
  • Incorrect interpretation of fetal monitoring data
  • Failing to identify issues with the umbilical cord
  • Failing to notice or act upon signs of fetal distress

Cerebral palsy can also develop as a result of conditions that occur after birth. These include severe jaundice, leading to kernicterus, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or meningitis. Sometimes, these conditions are not identified or treated effectively by the medical professionals involved and could result in brain damage and, ultimately, cerebral palsy.

Are There Different Types of Cerebral Palsy?

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, and the symptoms can vary depending on the areas of the brain that are affected. The different types of cerebral palsy include:

  • Spastic: This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, affecting 75% or more of people who are diagnosed. Spastic cerebral palsy causes increased muscle tone, resulting in tightness and stiffness, which can cause awkward movements. Spastic cerebral palsy is usually described by the parts of the body that are most affected. For example:
    • Diplegia or diparesis causes stiffness in the legs, which can result in difficulty walking due to the leg muscles pulling the legs inward and toward one another, often crossing at the knees.
    • Hemiplegia or hemiparesis affects one side of a person’s body, with the arm usually more severely affected than the leg.
    • Quadriplegia or quadriparesis affects all four limbs and usually the rest of the body as well, including the face. Most people with quadriplegia cannot walk, and they may also suffer from seizures, problems with their eyesight, hearing and speech, and other conditions.
  • Dyskinetic: People with dyskinetic cerebral palsy (also known as athetoid cerebral palsy) have limited control over their limbs due to their muscle tone rapidly changing from too tight to too loose, sometimes several times over the course of a day. The face can also be affected by dyskinetic cerebral palsy, which can make talking and swallowing very difficult.
  • Ataxic: Ataxic cerebral palsy is a result of damage to the cerebellum. It causes tremors in the limbs, limiting motor control and making it difficult to walk.

Some patients experience a combination of cerebral palsy symptoms. For example, spastic cerebral palsy and dyskinetic cerebral palsy are commonly experienced together. This may be because more than one part of the brain has been damaged.

While a cerebral palsy diagnosis can come as a shock, some families may already have some concerns over the medical treatment they received or a birth injury sustained during their baby’s delivery. This could be due to insufficient monitoring before or during labor or missing symptoms of a condition that resulted in injury. It could also be due to an administrative error where information wasn’t shared effectively between providers or team members.

Sometimes a lack of care and attention on the part of medical staff can mean that signs of fetal distress are not noticed until it is too late, which can also cause birth injuries and may lead to cerebral palsy. Errors or oversights such as these are not common, but when they do happen, the effects can be life-changing.

If you are concerned that your child or other loved one has suffered medical malpractice that has resulted in cerebral palsy, you probably want to ensure that you can get the best care possible for them. You may be able to pursue a claim for compensation to help you meet the costs of medical treatment, therapy, adaptations to your home, and other expenses. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have years of experience helping families get justice for their loved ones. Contact us today so you can benefit from our legal and medical expertise.



Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?