In a stunning medical breakthrough, a team of medical researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of California-Los Angeles restored some voluntary movement to four men who were told they would never move their legs again. The findings were published in the April 4th, 2014 issue of the journal “Brain” which is a journal of mainly studies in neurological science and its citation rating is one of the highest for neurology journals. The researchers had previously reported that one individual who had motor complete, but sensory incomplete spinal cord injury, regained voluntary movement after seven months of epidural stimulation and “stand training”. The researchers at that time thought that this outcome was likely due to the fact that there were residual sensory pathways in this individual.
However the shocking new discovery is that three more individuals had voluntary movement with epidural stimulation after the epidural implant even though two were diagnosed with motor and sensory complete lesion.
This stunning breakthrough has implications for paralysis litigation as the paralysis litigation future treatment costs may no longer be based upon a “permanent” injury. This will also have implications for the long-term future loss of earning capacity claim if the individuals can continue to progress through ongoing physical therapy treatment and epidural stimulation.
The results are not immediate. Patients require ongoing epidural stimulation and the individuals involved in this research have not yet “walked” but they are able to voluntarily move their legs and stand.
Of course, counsel for the Defendant insurance companies, if they are aware of this recent research, may argue that some of the “traditional” future treatment costs are no longer necessary; however, we would argue that, and we think every personal injury lawyer for a paralysis victim should now argue for an allotment of funds to fund this epidural stimulation research and additional physical therapy to stimulate the spinal cord neurons. There should be, in our view, a significant amount of money set aside for the Plaintiff paralysis victim to move to the research centers in the United States, which in this case would be Louisville, for two years of costly treatment, rehabilitation and experiments.
What is shocking is that four out of four individuals have shown improvement which is a very good sign. Of course this type of epidural stimulation research is not available in either of the two major cities in Alberta, Edmonton or Calgary, and so funding to move to the United States to have the epidural stimulation and the specialized physical therapy should form part of the future treatment costs.
It has long been an axiom of negligence law that the wrongdoer should restore the victim to the position that he or she was in prior to the negligence of the wrongdoer. In doing so, the Courts have routinely said that they can only give the victim money and that money is a “barren substitute” for health. Now, however with paralysis victims, providing the victim with money may be more than just a barren substitute for health as this money, although expensive, may actually restore a previously believed to be “permanent” paralysis victim to some form of voluntary movement. This is a fundamental medical breakthrough and should fundamentally alter spinal cord paralysis litigation for all victims and all plaintiff personal injury lawyers from this date forward.