Cerebral Palsy is a brain injury that around 1 in 400 children in the UK are born with every year. It affects movement and muscle control. Life expectancy is generally unaffected, but the symptoms do put a great strain on both the physical and mental health of people with the condition.

There are many possible causes, but the injury can occur as the result of medical negligence during or before birth. Our expert team understand the great difficulties that come with living with Cerebral Palsy and can help you find out if you’ve been affected by medical negligence. If you have, we can help you seek the confirmation you deserve.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and coordination.

There is no precise definition of Cerebral Palsy, but clinicians and others around the world are working to establish one international definition. However, it is agreed that Cerebral Palsy is caused by problems in the areas of the brain responsible for controlling movement, and can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged in early life. Parts of the brain responsible for important functions such as speech, hearing, vision and the ability to learn may also be affected. Therefore, people with the condition can have multiple problems not just limited to muscle movement.

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Chris Moore

Senior Solicitor and Joint Head of Clinical Negligence

Helena Wood

Team Supervisor and Chartered Legal Executive, Clinical Negligence

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Types of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a complicated condition and symptoms may differ from person to person. In addition to this, there are sub-divisions depending on condition’s severity, so a child may be diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe. The four main categories of the condition are:

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type, accounting for 70 – 80% of all cases of Cerebral Palsy. It occurs when brain damage affects the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain). The damage may be limited to one side of the body or just the lower limbs.

In spastic Cerebral Palsy, brain damage prevents the normal messages from brain to muscle. In order to allow movement, muscles will work in pairs, so one set contracting while the other relaxes. In spastic Cerebral Palsy the muscles often become active at once, which causes tension or spasticity which makes movement difficult.

The impact on movement depends on the severity of the condition and the number of muscles affected. For those who suffer from mild spastic Cerebral Palsy there may only be an inability to complete certain tasks, whereas with severe spastic Cerebral Palsy, a person may be unable to complete most, if not all of the activities of daily living.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

This type of Cerebral Palsy affects about one quarter of all the people with the condition, and is a result of brain damage to the basal ganglia located in the mid-brain region.

It usually affects all of the limbs and, in some instances, facial muscles are affected which causes dribbling. Rather than the increased muscle tone found in spastic Cerebral Palsy, this type of Cerebral Palsy manifests with some muscles being far too tense while others are too relaxed and this involuntary muscle activity can affect the whole body at once.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

This is when there is a combination of spasticity and athetoid movements.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

This is a much rarer form of Cerebral Palsy affecting only between 5 – 10% of those with this condition. In these cases, damage is caused to the cerebellum – the part of the brain governing the muscle movement required for balance and coordination – so those with ataxic Cerebral Palsy can struggle with these faculties.

 

 

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Residential care provider agrees damages with mother of young woman who died weighing just four stones after neglectful care

A provider of specialist residential care for vulnerable people has agreed a damages settlement with the mother of a 33-year-old woman who died weighing just four stones. Sammy Glew suffered with severe cerebral palsy throughout her life, which in turn
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“This was a very sad case in which Sammy was let down by the people whom her mother had trusted and expected to provide specialist care.”

“At the time of Sammy’s admission to the Avocet Trust she had no illness or complexities other than the symptoms associated with Cerebral Palsy. She should have been going into residential care for a better quality of life.”

Sam Thompson 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy can vary according to the type and severity of the condition. It can range from relatively mild, allowing a person the ability to live independently with proficient speech and mobility, to a severe and debilitating condition affecting all four limbs and thus depriving some of the ability to speak, walk and requiring full care.

The main symptoms are:

  • Muscle stiffness or floppiness.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Random and uncontrolled body movements.
  • Balance and coordination problems.

Many people with Cerebral Palsy have associated problems including seizures or fits, drooling, swallowing difficulties, communication and learning difficulties, although intelligence can be, and often is, unaffected.

Who is affected?

  • Cerebral Palsy affects roughly 1 in 400 births
  • More boys are born with Cerebral Palsy than girls at around 27:20
  • Every year, around 1,800 children are diagnosed with the condition (PACE)
  • It’s estimated that there are approximately 30,000 children living with Cerebral Palsy in the UK

What causes Cerebral Palsy?

There are a number of causes of Cerebral Palsy and these include:-

  • An infection caught by the mother during pregnancy.
  • A difficult or premature birth resulting in medical difficulties such as a lack of oxygen.
  • Bleeding in the baby’s brain.
  • Changes in the genes that affect the brains development when the baby is in utero

Of these potential causes, those at the highest risk are those born prematurely. Often Cerebral Palsy is not diagnosed immediately at birth because the signs and symptoms can be quite subtle in a new-born baby. Quite often, it is a baby failing to reach developmental milestones in the early years that leads parents to question why a child is experiencing problems and to then seek advice.

Why do families claim?

For most families seeking legal advice, there is often simply a need to understand what has happened, and to ascertain why and how their child has been affected. In short, they want answers and accountability.

How does a claim work?

The cause of Cerebral Palsy that leads to claims for compensation is nearly always a lack of oxygen at birth or in the immediate aftermath. Of all the types of Cerebral Palsy, only about 20% are due to lack of oxygen at birth with the vast majority being due to other factors. In these cases the baby has suffered a lack of oxygen during delivery or very shortly after being born. This usually results in the baby being delivered lifeless, blue and requiring resuscitation and then being admitted to a special care baby unit. The baby often goes on to develop organ failure and seizures.

If it can be proven that the lack of oxygen is due to medical negligence then you may be able to claim compensation.

The compensation process involves a detailed investigation of the events leading up to the delivery of the baby and the subsequent aftercare, and it can result in settlements aimed at improving lifelong quality of life – not just the child’s immediate needs. Families who make claims do so ultimately to improve their child’s quality of life.

At the moment, apart from the legal process, there is no other way that families can obtain compensation. As a result, it is important that they seek the advice of specialist lawyers with a good understanding of the causes of Cerebral Palsy, including how it can occur, the signs to look out for in medical records and documentation that will indicate whether there is a likely case or not.

A typical case involves actions such as a thorough assessment of the medical notes and their indications as well as consultation from the very best medical experts. These experts will report on the standard of care offered during the antenatal period, the labour and the after care in order to prove that a child has suffered Cerebral Palsy as a result of medical negligence.

How can we help?

Our expert team will make sure your case is investigated thoroughly and be available to answer any questions you have along the way. One of our experienced lawyers will be able to guide the family through the process, which can be lengthy. We can help obtain an interim compensation payment so that immediate steps can be taken to maximise the child’s potential and offer a better quality of life in terms of therapy and equipment, accommodation and care.

Whilst Cerebral Palsy is not a progressive condition, it is one that can lead to complications unless appropriately managed. Children often benefit from highly specialised intervention at an early stage and careful monitoring throughout their development, so acting fast is imperative.

Whilst no amount of money can make up for an unwell child we aim to deliver the highest settlement possible, as a claim for compensation can provide the financial support needed to help your child.