'Wrongful Birth' Suit
Parents are rewarded $2.9 million dollars for botched genetic screening results.
Ariel and Deborah Levy of Portland, Oregon, underwent genetic screening for their unborn daughter four years ago. Legacy Health System told them the happy news that they would give birth to a healthy little girl. Turns out that they were mistaken, and their daughter was actually born with Down syndrome.
The couple decided to file a “wrongful birth” lawsuit against Legacy Health System, claiming that if they had known that they were expecting a special-needs child, they would have terminated the pregnancy. They sued for $2.9 million, claiming the money would help to pay the estimated lifelong care for a person with Down syndrome.
The Levy's underwent a type of genetic testing known as a CVS (chorionic villus sampling), in which tissue is taken directly from the fetus and examined. The couple accused the clinic of making a devastating mistake by testing the tissue of the mother and not the baby, which indicated normal results. They also claimed that the doctors were “negligent in their performance, analysis and reporting” of test results even after their child was born.
When an Oregon jury recently rewarded the couple the $2.9 million dollars, the media attacked the couple, branding them as uncaring and cold parents for admitting that they would have ended the pregnancy had they known the outcome. In a time when 89 percent of those who discover that they will have a child with Down syndrome elect to terminate the pregnancy, it's a controversial topic, to say the least.
Yet despite the criticism, the Levy's lawyer, David K. Miller, insisted that the case was not about possibly terminating the pregnancy as some people suggested, it was about holding Legacy accountable for not properly processing the test. Miller told ABC News affiliate KATU;
"It’s been difficult for them, there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. These are parents who love this little girl very, very much. Their mission since the beginning was to provide for her and that’s what this is all about.”
I have been grappling with this case since I learned about it. On one hand, it saddens me to think of the Levy girl possibly discovering later in life that her parents would have chosen to not have her because of her condition. On the other hand, it seems as if the doctors were negligent in the way they performed the genetic test. Was this a case of malpractice?
We decided to undergo genetic screening while I was pregnant with each of my sons. My doctor told me no prenatal testing could be 100% accurate. We went ahead, knowing that the findings were based on statistics and that the outcome possibly would not be the predicted result. Had we been given the sad news that our child was going to have a birth defect, we would have prepared our hearts to love that child unconditionally.
While I respect the Levy's may not share this sentiment and have the right to choose, I feel bad for their daughter. They may have won the $2.9 million dollars but in my mind, there was no real winner in this sad case.
Do you think that the Levy's were justified in suing the clinic? Do you think that the doctors should be held accountable for their mistake?