Jury finds in favor of parents in ‘wrongful birth’ lawsuit

While a recent U.S. ruling in a medical malpractice case touches on several sensitive and controversial issues, the ruling is worth noting on our Chicago medical malpractice law blog. The controversial ruling that was made earlier this month in Oregon illustrates how a doctor’s error and awrong diagnosis can have a significant impact on a patient’s life as well as the life of his or her family.

When a patient in Illinois dies as a result of a surgical mistake, a misdiagnosis or some other form of medical malpractice, the victim’s family may choose to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in order to receive some justice and compensation for the devastating loss of a loved one. However, if a doctor fails to inform new parents before their baby is born that their child may have a genetic disorder, could the parents pursue a “wrongful birth” lawsuit?

Nearly five years ago, a couple in Oregon decided to have doctors conduct several tests while pregnant with their child to screen for any genetic disorders or health complications. Many couples in Illinois and throughout the entire U.S. opt to have these tests performed during the early stages of pregnancy in order to make sure that their babies are healthy or to prepare for any complications that may arise when their child is born. In this case, the Oregon couple had decided that they would terminate their pregnancy if the test results came back abnormal.

When a doctor conducted one of the screenings, a sample of tissue was taken from the baby and analyzed. After the tests were performed, doctors told the parents that the results were normal. But a week after their child was born the parents learned that their child had Down syndrome, a genetic condition that should have been discovered during the screenings that were performed early on during their pregnancy.

After the child’s birth, the couple chose to file a lawsuit citing negligence. The lawsuit argued that doctors analyzed the wrong type of tissue when conducting the pre-natal tests. The lawsuit also stated that had the parents known the baby had Down syndrome, they would not have continued the pregnancy.

Initially, the couple sought more than $5 million in compensation to help cover the expenses associated with the special care their child would need over her lifetime. Earlier this month, a jury awarded the family nearly $3 million.

Source: New York Daily News, “Parents win $2.9M for ‘wrongful birth,'” Meena Hart Duerson, March 11, 2012

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