Couple Gets $4.5M Because Doctor Didn’t Suggest Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 15, 2011   |   11:31AM   |   Palm Beach, FL

A Florida couple will receive $4.5 million after winning a wrongful birth lawsuit claiming their son, born with no arms and one leg, should have become a victim of abortion. They complained the doctor in the case should have detected the physical disabilities before birth and suggested an abortion.

Ana Mejia and Rodolfo Santana filed suit in regards to the birth of their son Bryan, who is now a happy three-year-old boy. They asked a Palm Beach County Circuit Court jury for the money to be able to raise their son by requiring a Palm Beach Gardens obstetrician and the medical company she works for to pay $9 million towards the costs of his upbringing and damages for their pain and suffering.

Dr. Marie Morel and OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches were found to have failed to diagnose the disability and the jury awarded the couple $4.5 million. They determined that Morel was 85 percent responsible and the ultrasound tech 15 percent responsible for not informing the parents of the problems during the pregnancy.

“I have no words,” Mejia said after receiving the jury’s decision, according to the Palm Beach Post newspaper.

Mark Rosen, an attorney who represents the clinic and Morel said an appeal would be filed in the case.

During the two week trial, Mejia and Santana both indicated they would have opted for an abortion had they known the severity of the physical disabilities of their son. They claimed the ultrasound tech at OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches did not take proper ultrasounds that could have established the problems as the pregnancy unfolded.

“They went from the heights of joyous expectations to the depths of despair,” their attorney Robert Bergin told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday, according to the newspaper. “Ana and Rodolfo Santana know their mental anguish and their emotions are not important. The only thing that will help make up for their mental anguish is to know Bryan’s life plan is fully funded.”

Rosen insisted Morel and his clients were not negligent and said he understood the desire by the parents to obtain financial support in caring for Bryan.

“There is nothing Dr. Morel wants more than for Bryan Santana to have a happy, healthy life,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re responsible. Is it fair to blame physicians for acts of nature?”

He argued the couple rejected an amniocentesis that could have detected the problems, but the couple said they did so because of the 1 in 500 chance of a miscarriage that could occur as a result.

“No one is happy about what happened to Bryan Santana but Ana Mejia made the decision in 2008,” he said.

The award is upsetting to pro-life advocates who say it promotes abortions in cases when unborn children are diagnosed with physical or mental disabilities in the womb and Paul Cooper of Pajamas Media said, the mother “will not win any mother-of-the year awards.”

“I hope when little Bryan grows up he never Googles himself or his parents. I can’t imagine the horror when he reads that his parents wish they would have killed him,” he said. “I wonder how quickly he will grasp that his parents think his life, since he has disabilities, isn’t worth living.  I wonder if that jury considered how the disabled community would feel if they knew that a jury awarded these parents millions because they missed the opportunity to abort their disabled son.”

“Shortly after the jury made its decision I contacted Marc Sherman, Program Director for AccessABILITY Center for Independent Living, Inc. Sherman, who has been diagnosed with C5/C6 quadriplegia himself, had a strong reaction: ‘A disability is just a natural part of life.  A person with a disability has just as much worth and just as much as importance as anybody else.  It doesn’t matter what kind of disability, they have just as much worth and importance.  They should get to choose how they want to live.'”

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, also chimed in on the case, saying, “This is a truly shocking decision from the court.”

“It perpetuates the myth that life is not worth living if you have a disability and indicates a chillingly utilitarian view of personhood,” she said. “Children are not commodities and we cannot dispose of them when they fail to meet our expectations, either in appearance or ability. This view safeguards life and prevents the callous and barbaric treatment of those born, or about to be born, with disabilities.”