by Laura Sussely-Pope
In one of the most controversial cases of its kind, a jury in Oregon has just awarded parents Ariel and Deborah Levy $2.9 million in their wrongful birth lawsuit against their doctor.
The couple was told that their prenatal tests did not detect Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome. However, when their little girl was born, she did in fact, carry the extra chromosome.
Ariel and Deborah Levy said that they would have terminated the pregnancy had they known that their child would have Down syndrome. This is actually the case for over 90% of prenatally diagnosed babies who carry the extra chromosome.
After their baby was born with Down syndrome four years ago, they sued their physician and Legacy Health System for "wrongful birth" and have been awarded $2.9 million, which they will use to care for their daughter's "special needs." The couple makes it clear that despite the lawsuit, they love their daughter very much.
A case like this going to trial is rare because parents fear the possible repercussions of testifying in open court that they would have aborted their child. It's pretty easy to imagine the emotional damage this type of testimony could have on the child if they hear it down the road.
The Oregonian states, "Experts say so few parents choose to file wrongful birth suits because it forces them to take an awkward position: They must be willing to say on the record that they would have aborted the pregnancy, and that they feel a burden – albeit financial – of raising the child."
Regardless of where one stands on the issue of terminating a pregnancy for this or any reason, this case is more about malpractice. How did and could this happen?
Apparently, both sides speculate and theorize. The couple says that maternal tissue was sampled instead of fetal tissue which produced a false negative result in the chorionic villus sampling (CVS). The defendants' attorney maintains the testing was properly done.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm the mother of a little boy with Down syndrome. I didn't choose to do genetic testing as I wouldn't have terminated the pregnancy. I know many families like myself, who are raising children with Down syndrome, and while challenging, can't imagine life without them. I felt it only fair to disclose my situation (and brag on the picture in this blog, who happens to be my son).
I believe that this case will increase awareness about having better medical care, testing, and genetic counseling. There should also be better education and services for parents about what it means to raise children with Down syndrome and other special needs.
What do you think about this case? We would love to hear your comments about it. Please share your thoughts!
Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review. Mansfield C, Hopfer S, Marteau TM. Source Psychology and Genetics Research Group, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Medical School (King's College), London, UK.
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