What Is “Wrongful Birth”?

We’ve all heard of wrongful death through negligence and so on, but recently a Wrongful Birth suit was awarded $2.9 million in damages. The claim made by the parents was that they suffered as a result of misdiagnosis during pregnancy, which was upheld by the court and damages were awarded.

Importance of prenatal testing

The importance of prenatal screening is highlighted by this verdict. The plaintiffs in the suit were Ariel and Deborah Levy, parents of a little girl with Down’s syndrome. They filed suit against Legacy Health System for misdiagnosis and for not detecting Down’s during prenatal screening.

The parents claimed that if they had been aware that they were going to have a child with special needs they would have terminated the pregnancy.

The claim was granted based on the fact that lifelong care of a special needs child requires more money and resources.

Reports say that in this case, the doctors did not just fail to make a diagnosis they also made categorical statements to the parents that their child was free from any identifiable birth defects.

The ethical considerations aside, this case raises significant questions about the possibility of detecting prenatal abnormalities and the possibility of human error in such cases.

In the Ariel and Deborah Levy case, it appears that when the possibility of their baby having a birth defect was detected, this was not communicated to the parents. Whether they would have terminated the pregnancy or chosen to continue it is a secondary consideration, the main point here is that they were not given that choice due to inadequate information given to them.

What does prenatal testing tell us?

Prenatal testing options such as ultrasounds, amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, and blood tests are available to gauge the health of the fetus and the pregnancy on the whole.

According to experts, ultrasounds can only predict what risk there is of a baby having a congenital defect. It cannot say with exactitude whether or not there is a defect already present. A blood test also offers similarly inexact results.

Amniocentesis, which is a procedure that carries some risk, involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid for testing. This yields far more accurate results. Experts say this is the gold standard of prenatal testing however as in all else the chances of human error are present here as well.