Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Prenatal Testing and Liability for Wrongful Birth

Prenatal testing enables parents to make a difficult decision no one would want to face: whether to terminate a pregnancy based on a genetic defect. This testing has helped many parents but it is an imperfect science and the people who perform tests don’t always interpret results properly.

In those cases, parents are faced with an even more difficult situation when a child is born with a debilitating genetic disorder. Beyond the heartache and emotional challenges, having a child with a serious disease or disorder presents practical, financial, and logistical problems. That is why parents sue for negligence in the context of prenatal testing. In addition to assigning responsibility, a lawsuit also enables parents to be awarded damages to pay for lifelong care.

Wrongful Birth

Wrongful death suits are negligence cases brought by the family of a victim on their behalf. A lawsuit argues that, but for the defendant’s negligence, the victim would be alive. Similarly, wrongful birth suits are brought by parents whose children essentially would have been born but for the negligence of medical practitioners in testing or diagnosis.

Reportedly about 89 percent of women who learn through prenatal testing that their child has Down’s syndrome opt to terminate the pregnancy. Parents who are falsely reassured by physicians that their child will be healthy based on genetic testing and learn after it is too late that their child faces a lifetime of dependence often opt to sue. When they do this, targeting the geneticists and medical practitioners who misinterpret or otherwise err in their reading of a prenatal test, they are fighting for help in covering the crippling expenses of a lifetime of care for the newborn child.

Some parents are particularly reliant on prenatal genetic testing because they have a child with a rare disease and are seeking reassurance that the next pregnancy will be different. One couple was awarded nearly $21 million by a jury after they sued for wrongful birth. Their geneticist misdiagnosed their first son’s birth defect and they had a second child with the same problem, a defect that would have been found in prenatal testing if the first son’s defect had been known. The geneticist reassured them that subsequent pregnancies would be fine, but both of their sons suffer from the same rare and grave problems.


If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of medical personnel or anyone else, speak to a lawyer. Tell your story and find out your options.

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