Wrongful Birth: Medical Malpractice?

Posted by Richard P. Hastings | Mar 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

This week, the court of public opinion weighed in on a controversial decision in a wrongful birth case, which was delivered by a Portland, OR jury that awarded the parents of a girl who was born with Down's syndrome the sum of $2.9 million. The parents of the now 4-year-old girl originally went to their doctor to determine if their 13-week-old baby had any chromosomal problems and were told there were none.  Their daughter was later born with Down's syndrome.

The jury found five instances of medical malpractice including a doctor's finding that the baby had no chromosomal problems based upon the results of a test that was improperly performed and analyzed incorrectly. The parents were awarded damages in their wrongful birth lawsuit because they argued that they chose to continue with their pregnancy based upon what their doctors had advised them.  They also claimed that they would have terminated the pregnancy if they had been advised that their baby had Down's syndrome.

Wrongful birth cases are extremely rare nationwide because, in cases such as this, prenatal testing for determining this condition are 99.7% accurate and few parents are willing to undergo the ordeal of a trial. A number of studies have shown that approximately nine out of ten women who learn they will give birth to a Down's syndrome child will choose to terminate their pregnancy.

The parents' medical malpractice case alleges that their doctor tested tissue samples and concluded that their baby did not have any chromosomal problems despite the fact that later tests suggested the baby did have Down's syndrome.  Their doctors, despite the suggestions of Down's, assured the parents that nothing was wrong.

The parents sued for $7 million, which was alleged to be the lifetime cost of care for their daughter.

The parents' position is that they went to a doctor to have certain testing performed to allow them to make a decision as to their future plans. If medical malpractice had not been present in this case, they would have opted to terminate the pregnancy.  Due to the medical malpractice, they have a daughter who suffers from a medical condition that the physician told them she did not have, which will result in significant lifetime care costs.

This article is meant to report the facts of this case and in no way sets forth a moral judgment regarding either side of it.  This article is not intended to open this forum up to a debate on Pro Choice v. Right to Life viewpoints.

Given the foregoing caveat, what do you think?

About the Author

Richard P. Hastings

Attorney Hastings concentrates his practice on personal injury and litigation. Devoted to helping those who have suffered some type of wrong, Richard P. Hastings concentrates his law practice on personal injury law.


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