Few things can be more frightening than the idea of waking up one day unable to smile. Loss of sensation, taste, and the ability to control muscles in the mouth and rest of the face would be a tragic and terrifying nightmare for most people. Unfortunately, facial paralysis is a reality for many people in the United States. A recent medical malpractice case demonstrates how life for one individual can instantly and dramatically change after suffering trauma that leads to paralysis.
According to the Des Moines Register, 46-year-old Tamara Stellmach was living a normal life working at a hospital call center, when she agreed to participate in a study at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic in 2010. The study was meant to test experimental procedures for treating constipation problems, as well as incontinence. Ultimately, researchers were trying to learn about how nerve connections between a human’s brain and their rectum are affected by biofeedback training. However, participation in the study led to Ms. Stellmach’s facial paralysis. According to a Complaint, filed by Ms. Stellmach against the hospital, she first suffered from extreme headaches after the therapy, and then woke up unable to move most of the muscles in her face. She immediately went to the emergency room at the hospital, and was treated with an antiviral drug. She was also given an eye patch and eyes drops as treatment.
However, the paralysis did not go away, and now Ms. Stellmach’s suit is set for trial. Ms. Stellmach alleges that if she would have been informed of the risks of paralysis, she would not have participated in the study. She further contends that the hospital is liable for medical malpractice because it should have given her a steroid when she was admitted to the emergency room. The hospital defends these claims by answering that the paralysis may have been caused by Ms. Stellmach’s prior health conditions, and that emergency doctors treated the paralysis appropriately. The trial of Ms. Stellmach’s case is set for October 15.
Aside from potential trauma, there are many other ways that facial paralysis may occur. The New York Ear and Eye Infirmary lists a number of other reasons why a person may suffer from paralysis, namely congenital, infectious, systemic and neurologic, and neoplastic.
Congenital paralysis occurs from the time a person is born. Congenital paralysis may occur from birth trauma, mobius syndrome (a syndrome which causes inability to move the face and difficulty expressing emotion), Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome (characterized by facial paralysis, swelling and tongue fissures), and Hemifacial Microsomia (facial anomalies due to lack of development on one side of the face). Bell’s Palsy, Ramsey-Hunt Syndrome, Otitus Media and/or Mastoiditis, Cholesteatoma, Lyme Disease and other infectious diseases can cause facial paralysis by infection. Systemic and Neurologic conditions, such as autoimmune disease, diabetes and other conditions can also cause facial paralysis, especially if not properly and promptly treated. Finally, neoplastic conditions, such as tumors and cancer, can also cause paralysis of the face.
Facial paralysis related to medical malpractice is serious and frightening, and can severely impact a person’s life. If you or a loved one has been a victim of paralysis due to the negligence of a doctor, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact the attorneys at Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC today for a confidential consultation to see how they can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve.