Couple Sues, Doc Didn’t Suggest Aborting Baby With Down Syndrome

National   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Mar 6, 2012   |   11:25AM   |   Washington, DC

A couple in Portland are suing Legacy Health because their child has Down Syndrome. This is another of these so-called wrongful birth lawsuits that are so very wrong. The wrongful birth suit is brought by the parents of a sick or disabled child against medical professionals that, the parents say, were negligent.

The wrongful birth lawsuit does not say that the medical practitioners caused the disease or disability, which would be a valid reason to sue. Instead the wrongful birth lawsuit claims the that doctor failed to inform the parents of the illness or disability of the child and that had they known, they would have aborted their child. In other words, the parents are saying we wish our child was dead. Because he or she is not, the someone has to pay.

The parents often use the excuse that they love their child; they are simply suing to acquire funds to care for their sick or disabled offspring. But to get those funds they have to insist that, had they known, they would have killed that very same child. The Oregon couple is suing for $7 million. From ABCNews:

The parents of a four-year-old Oregon girl with Down syndrome are suing Legacy Health in Portland because they say doctors misdiagnosed their daughter as not having the condition during a prenatal screening.

As a result of doctors’ reassurances, according to KATU, the parents decided to continue the pregnancy. They are suing for $7 million, an amount they say will pay for the girl’s care for life.

Court documents were not immediately available, so it’s unclear what type of genetic testing the couple underwent. Genetic counselors say there are different types of screening options, including amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, and an ultrasound combined with blood testing.

There is much confusion over prenatal testing in general so it is not surprising that the details of exactly what testing was perform have been omitted. People often confuse a screening method called a triple or quad screen that simply looks at protein levels in a maternal blood sample and actual genetic testing of the fetus through amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). While the quad screen is just that, a non-invasive screen that requires further testing, the genetic testing through amnio or CVS is much more accurate because it tests the DNA of the baby directly.

Regardless of the testing performed there is no guarantee ever that a child will be healthy. Which is precisely why a dozen or so states prohibit these wrongful birth lawsuits. The statutes that prevent these suits usually have language similar to the Idaho law that says:

“A cause of action shall not arise, and damages shall not be awarded, on behalf of any person, based on the claim that but for the act or omission of another, a person would not have been permitted to have been born alive but would have been aborted.”

The laws that prohibit wrongful life suits are there in part to protect doctors or other medical personnel from being coerced into recommending eugenic abortion as a way to avoid lawsuits. With the possibility of a wrongful life lawsuit hanging over their heads medical professionals are more likely to participate in a “seek-and-destroy” mission against any fetus with any kind of abnormality. That seek-and-destroy mission comprising unnecessary or unwanted testing is not healthy for the mother or her child.

I found many comments on this lawsuit from those who know someone with Down Syndrome. I wanted to share them just in case this couple might be reading. The comments are clear that people with Down Syndrome are a blessing, not grounds for a lawsuit:

“My son will be 5 this coming March 17th. . . he has Down Syndrome. … Let me tell you, and this I swear is not a parents bias. My son is one of the most popular and beloved individuals in our entire community. He’s a celebrity of sorts in our schools and church. These kids are such an amzing [sic] blessing. Those parents should be thanking the doctors for being wrong!!!”

“I am the parent of a 3 year old down syndrome child. He is the best thing that has happened to me! He teaches my wife and I patience and true unconditional love! He always has a smile on his face! I would NOT trade him in for a so-called “normal” child!”

“I had an Uncle who had Down’s syndrome and he was the most protected Uncle, a joy to know, I loved him dearly and miss him still. He passed away 2 years ago. Oh the memories, the joy, the love he gave. He was a gift from God.”

“I have a brother with Down Syndrome and I CAN NOT imagine my life without him! He’s the sweetest, most gentle person I know and I’m so glad he’s an uncle to my children! He’s truly an angel and I love him so much.”

With more and more wrongful life suits being filed, more states need to have laws preventing them. Rejecting these suits protects doctors from being coerced into the prenatal seek-and-destroy mentality. It also reinforces the principle that all life has value. The lives of sick or disabled children are just as valuable as those who do not have special needs. State law needs to reflect this reality.