Adult With Cerebral Palsy May Lose His Rights

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Posted on Apr 24, 2017

At INOVA Loudon Hospital, severely disabled Alex Scott is being held against the will of his family because his group home will only take him back if he undergoes surgery to get a feeding tube; so he can be fed intraveneously rather than eating the ordinary way. According to the Washington Post, his family says "the medical procedure is unnecessary and would benefit group-home employees more than Scott." 

He came to the hospital with "a slight fever and possible bronchitus" and should have been discharged within a few days, according to the Post.

Though it may take him thirty minutes to get through a meal, Alex is still able to consume and enjoy food. Despite being profoundly disabled by cerebral palsy, 42 year old Alex still has awareness. His sister, who has been standing beside him as his advocate, says he wants to go home. 

Unfortunately, as we see in our medical malpractice cases for children who have cerebral palsy caused by malpractice, the rights of severely disabled people are often in jeopardy.

The treatment courses for the extremely disabled are often determined by a combination of medical opinion and the recommendations of the caregivers. In Seattle, a case known as the "Ashley Treatment" illustrated the crux of the argument: how much do you consider the convenience of the caregiver, and how much do you weigh the quality of life for the disabled person?

In the case of "Ashley X" a disabled child known as "Ashley" would not reach beyond the mental faculties of a three to six-month-old due to static encephalopathy. Her parents therefore authorized the use of hormones to keep her small, a hysterectomy to keep her from menstrual discomfort, and removal of breast buds. They said it was because they were tasked with moving her around and belting her in her chair and so the body of a child was preferable to that of an adult. The case fostered the controversy over the child's dignity. Her parents maintained that she is well-loved and as happy as she can be.

The same principle applies to Alex Scott or any person with severe cerebral palsy. The administration of the feeding tube would be to convenience his caregivers at the group home. According to his sister, Alex is still able to enjoy food. With an intravaneous tube, he would no longer be able to taste it. His doctor opined that the feeding tube would not be necessary. Yet, Alex is still stranded at the hospital; away from his group home of twenty-plus years.

There are few things in life more devastating than cerebral palsy, and at Donahoe Kearney we know that. We know how hard it is for families with a baby with cerebral palsy or special needs child; we know how hard they work and how much they give up. However, each disabled child and adult should be able to keep their dignity intact. Unless medically necessary, we shouldn't take drastic measures to alleviate the burden of care. We don't assume that the disabled are unaware, and we don't believe that those with disabilities deserve lesser treatment.

That's one of the reasons we've published a list of resources for families with a child suffering from cerebral palsy or developmental delays: Getting Everything Your Special Needs Child Deserves: A Parent's Guide to Resources. You can order a copy today; absolutely no obligation and it is completely free.

At Donahoe Kearney we work hard as an advocate for children affected by cerebral palsy and serious injuries caused by medical treatment; to get them the very best settlement to provide for all of the resources they need. Our goal is to make sure that you can afford personalized and individualized treatment for your child so that you don't have to fight with care givers about what is best for your child. 

To speak with a real person about medical malpractice cases involving cerebral palsy today, give us a call at 202-393-3320. 

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer