A system to financially help parents of babies born with cerebral palsy is likely to be introduced in fiscal 2008. It will offer compensation to the parents even if obstetricians did not commit negligence during delivery. It will be of great help to families, since the economic and psychological burdens of caring for babies with the disease are great. It will also reduce the risk of obstetricians being sued. But the system must be operated with fairness and transparency.
Even if obstetricians take utmost care with their delivery procedures, some babies will be born with cerebral palsy. It is said that 2.2 out of every 1,000 newborn babies suffer from the disease and that the rate is increasing.
Under the new system, all medical institutions handling childbirth will enter into compensation agreements with pregnant women. A few dozen million yen will be paid if a baby born through normal birth is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. A section in the Japan Council for Quality Health Care, an organization that assesses medical institutions, will decide whether to pay compensation after studying applications from perinatal medical institutions. The section will also determine the cause of cerebral palsy in individual cases.
The compensation will be paid out of nonlife insurance policies. Premiums will eventually come from participants in public health insurance plans. It is likely that the compensation will combine two types of payment: a one-time payment plus payments made regularly until the child reaches a certain age.
A present, parents of children with cerebral palsy have to file lawsuits citing negligence on the part of obstetricians and medical institutions if they want to receive compensation. The new system thus improves on this point. It will also help rectify the current situation in which some obstetricians avoid handling childbirth — and medical students avoid becoming obstetricians altogether — for fear of lawsuits.
Rules must be set, however, to prevent recipients of compensation under the new system from filing lawsuits for additional compensation. Transparency must also be ensured with regard to the flow of money in the new system.