Parents Sue Doctor for a Wrongful Birth

Jeanne Sager

ultrasoundWrongful death lawsuits are a dime a dozen, but have you ever heard of a "wrongful birth" suit?

Two couples whose children have Down syndrome are suing the doctors who they say failed to give them the information that would have pushed them to have an abortion.

According to the Herald Sun, at least one of the children has severe health complications beyond the Down syndrome, to the point where the kindergartner can't walk or feed herself.

In that case, one test indicated Down syndrome, but a later (and supposedly more accurate) screening negated the first ruling. The latter case contends doctors failed to advise the mother of the risk her "advanced age" created for a child with birth defects.

I cannot sit in judgment of a mother who chooses to abort her child because of defects. Along with the parents who are swimming against the current and dealing well with their children with special needs are the parents who are being pulled under by the stress, the financial burden, and the complete upheaval in their lives.

When it comes to personal choice, it's one that carries with it dozens of considerations: not least being the ability to handle the ramifications of giving birth.

That being said, every time a woman gets pregnant, that pregnancy carries with it the risk of carrying a baby with some sort of birth defect.

The numbers are small -- around 3 to 4 percent -- but they're there.

In these cases, the doctors didn't create the defect -- nature did, or to be specific, their parents' coitus did.

Which makes "wrongful birth" a tricky decision. A doctor is duty-bound to provide the best of care and in the case of abortion to not hide details based on personal feelings that would prevent an abortion.

But these tests are still not 100 percent accurate (estimates vary from 80 to 99 percent depending on the method used). And nowhere near every mother of "advanced maternal age" will deliver a Down syndrome baby.

You can't blame a parent for trying -- the costs of care for their kids could be covered by a large settlement, including coverage for adult care that the average parent doesn't have to think about.

But who is to blame for a wrongful birth -- the doctor or the parents who made the child?


Image via surlygirl/Flickr

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