Understanding Wrongful Birth
Helping families faced with a difficult future
Every potential parent hopes for a happy, healthy baby. We all want our kids to have the opportunity to grow up and make lives for themselves. We want to give them the world. And we want them to know they are loved, and safe.
But there are some instances where a child will have a life-threatening or life-altering birth defect. There are some pregnancies that will put the lives of the child and the mother at risk. And there are some circumstances that might affect a mother’s decision whether or not to bring a child into this world that are deeply personal to her. If a mother or the parents are not informed about all of their options and potential risks from the start, it could be grounds for a wrongful birth lawsuit.
How do I know if I have a case for wrongful birth?
Most wrongful births occur when, during pregnancy, a medical professional fails to inform you about any potential birth defects or malformations that result in disability or stillbirth. This could mean several things, like one or more professionals failed to correctly perform or interpret prenatal testing, or withheld key information about the baby’s health, preventing you from making informed decisions about how to proceed with their pregnancy.
However, a person may also file for wrongful birth if the mother was given incorrect information about the risks (either purposely or not), or was forced to give birth despite her wishes.
We want you to remember this: a wrongful birth is not you saying you wish your child hadn’t been born. It is not you saying you don’t love your child. Wrongful birth cases are designed to help your family care for a severely disabled child or severely injured mother. Compensation from successful wrongful birth lawsuits can help cover costs to care for your child and/or partner over their lifetimes, including therapy, provider care, equipment, surgery, and more.
Failures in prenatal care
An expectant mother relies on the expertise and experience of her physician for information about the health and safety of her unborn child. If that doctor neglects to test for abnormalities, or the testing fails, and your child is born with a debilitating condition, you should talk to a birth injury lawyer.
There are a number of circumstances that can lead to wrongful birth.
- Failure to diagnose a condition in either birth parent that has a high probability of causing the child to be born with a disability. Correct diagnosis would have given the parents a choice of using contraception or terminating the pregnancy.
- Failing to advise the parents of the risks of genetic diseases based on markers found in the birth parents or based on results of lab tests.
- Failure of a medical lab to conduct tests ordered by the doctor, laboratory errors, or failure by the lab to report their findings.
- Failing to monitor the pregnancy properly. A physician might miss an abnormal sonogram or other test that another doctor would have detected.
- Failing to follow up on warning signs, like early trimester bleeding, that could indicate birth defects.
- Withholding information from the parents that the child was likely to have a serious medical condition.
- Withholding information about potential risks to the mother.
What types of conditions are detectible before birth?
There are a number of medical conditions and disabilities your doctor can test for or detect before birth. Following are a few.
- Down syndrome: With this condition, there is an extra copy of the 21st Down’s children have intellectual disabilities and sometimes suffer from genetic heart defects. They’re also at a higher risk of developing several medical conditions. Mothers over 35 or those with a family history of Down syndrome should be tested.
- Sickle cell anemia: More common among African-Americans, sickle cell anemia can cause severe pain and major organ damage.
- Neural tube defects. Neural tube defects form within the first month of pregnancy, and affect the brain, spine or spinal cord. The most well-known of these defects are spina bifida, which affects the lumbar and sacral spine, and damages the spine to the point where it can lead to paralysis; and anencephaly, where the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. Most neural tube defects will lead to the death of the child: either through stillbirth, or shortly after delivery.
- Tay-Sachs disease: Ashkenazi Jews are susceptible to this disease, which is a mutation of the 15th This birth defect can cause loss of sight, loss of hearing, seizures, and intellectual disabilities. The gene can usually be detected via genetic testing.
- Cystic fibrosis: Cystic fibrosis causes problems in the digestive system, liver, pancreas, and lungs due to abnormal mucous. Children with CF have shortened life expectancy. Genetic screening can detect if one of the parents is a carrier, as well as tests throughout the pregnancy.
Medical professionals have a responsibility to inform parents about any abnormalities in their developing baby, along with all of the risks that could accompany these abnormalities. When parents are properly informed, they can make a knowledgeable decision about how proceed with the pregnancy. In the case of wrongful birth, however, they are not informed about the abnormalities, not informed about the risks, and don’t have any opportunity to make any informed decision about the pregnancy.
Birth defects and birth injuries
It’s important to note that there’s a different between a birth injury (like cerebral palsy or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy), and a birth defect (like congenital heart disease or spina bifida). Birth injuries typically happen to a healthy baby as a result of complications or mistakes during labor and delivery, while a birth defect happens because of a genetic or predisposing factor.
Wrongful birth cases are associated with birth defects, and not birth injuries.
Who is responsible?
Wrongful birth is a category of medical malpractice. Responsible parties may include your physician, who failed to inform you of the risks of having a child born with serious genetic medical conditions. Or they may have failed to order tests that another doctor with the same training in your area would have ordered, given the same set of circumstances.
Other parties could include residents, nurses, or other medical professionals who were negligent or irresponsible during your pregnancy. A laboratory that didn’t follow the physician’s orders to conduct certain tests, or didn’t notify the physician of results, or misread them, can also be held responsible.
Damages from a wrongful birth case
Caring for a child with a severe birth defect necessitates enormous financial stress—for your child’s health, treatment, and education. If your child was born with a serious birth defect and a medical professional was found liable, you can be awarded compensation and damages. These can include the high costs of raising a child with special needs, which can be extremely high based on your child’s particular medical issues. Your child may need a lifetime of care, including medical expenses and therapeutic expenses for a child with special needs.
Additionally, as a parent, you may be awarded damages for emotional distress.
These are many of the injuries our clients’ children have sustained
Let us help you when you need help the most
If you or your loved one was seriously injured by an act of medical negligence, Crandall & Pera Law may be able to help. We are a nationally recognized team of medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To learn more about who we are, or to schedule a consultation with an experienced birth injury attorney, please call 877-955-0020 or fill out our contact form.