Wrongful Birth

Continued from here

This is the story that raised the subject.

AnimeJ wrote:

But the doctor wasn't responsible for the child being born with Down Syndrome. Because of something that happened with the lab, the couple was not aware that the child was going to have Down syndrome. However, with that said, and this is from personal experience dealing with prenatal testing(my second and third child both went through it after my first daughter was born with complete Agenesis of the Corpus Collosum) is that even if the test is done properly, there is a decent occurence of not only false positives, but false negatives as well. In other words, the tests themselves aren't perfect. So what we have here, in my eyes are a few things of note:

1. We have a couple who did not desire to give birth to a special needs child.
2. A doctor, who I believe was acting in good faith, relayed test results to said couple.
3. The results of the test ultimately turned out to not be representative of how the child was born.
4. The couple sued, because they would have aborted otherwise.

So if a doctor botches a HIV test, it's malpractice, but when it's a prenatal genetics test, he's in the clear? The reason they won the wrongful birth suit is that the group of doctors did not properly inform them that there was a possibility that the baby would have Down syndrome. The parents were aware that there were test results saying it was a possibility, but the doctors wrongly told them that the test results were wrong and that their baby would not have Down syndrome. I think that whoever decided to ignore the newer tests acted in bad faith. They may have felt that the test was wrong, and nothing to worry about, but they should still have informed the parents of what their options were (re-take the original test, do a different test for more accurate results). The doctors weren't found liable because they made an honest mistake, they were found liable because once they had evidence suggesting a mistake had been made, they ignored it.

Here's an article that lays out what the arguments were:

  • The initial test (chorionic villus sampling, which the article says (and a google search agrees) is about 99% accurate in detecting Down syndrome) was performed wrong and they took the mother's cells, not the fetus's.
  • In the following weeks, two different ultrasounds contained abnormalities that can be indicative of Down syndrome. The Levy's testified that the doctors assured them their baby would not have Down syndrome after the ultrasounds, and didn't advise them to get a different test that can also detect Down syndrome.
  • The medical group contends that the reason the CVS test looked normal was due to the baby having a type of Down syndrome in which a significant number of her cells don't contain the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. They had a sample of cells taken after the baby was born in which 31% of the cells were normal. Other samples taken after birth only had 1 or 2% of the cells as normal.
  • Both sides medical experts criticized the opposing sides experts as ill-informed.

I'd imagine this will make for some very awkward Thanksgiving dinners.

Not sure what is being discussed here... so I'll just respond to the situation.
I fix computers for the professionals that go out and provide educational services and training for the families with special needs individuals. Sometimes I sit and provide an ear for the frustrated venting sessions after a particularly difficult meeting. Some of the stories would make you forsake humanity as a species.

The most important thing I've learned in my ten years here is that you can't apply your own reasoning to these scenarios and remain sane. Projecting your own experiences and feelings over a situation already complicated by biological impulses and the psychological grab-bag of messed up emotions that an infant with severe disabilities can provoke in the parent(s), even if you've been there yourself, will never provide you with proper answers.
That said... Without reading the specifics of the article for the sake of my bloodpressure, the impression I got was that this couple was aware of the potential for these issues and made a conscious decision. Multiple tests and signs were misinterpreted, whether through incompetence by error or agenda isn't really relevant, and now despite their best efforts their child will require a level of care and dedication that they were paying a doctor to help them avoid.
Shallow? Callous? Unfeeling? Yes.
Unwarranted? Looking at what living this reality has done to other families that started with the best of intentions? Certainly exceptions exist and I'm going to go on a limb and say that many families find their balance and achieve fulfillment and happiness, many. But there are more than a few that don't, so I'm in no position to pass judgement on the parents for not wanting to roll the dice on that front. I have no idea what avenues I would consider in their shoes, but I do know when it would be the well-being of my family in question then absolutely no options are off the table. If seeking damages from the doctors that failed me helps my family then damn the torpedoes.

As for the doctors, they screwed up. Whether it was lying about the results or misinterpreting them in error. If the error was introduced out of some sense of moral judgement about terminating the pregnancy, then the doctors inserted themselves into the family planning decisions of the parents and should be responsible for the subsequent financial burden. If the error was introduced out of some cosmic sequence of cascading mistakes that caused the doctors to misrepresent the results in good faith then there is a severe problem in the system those doctors are using and this judgement should be an impetus for them to review their practices. Basically I don't see a scenario where the doctors could reasonably be given the benefit of the doubt. There are (or should have been) too many checks and balances in play.

Disclaimer: Everything I know about this situation I read on GWJ.

Some info from the second article posted, which I looked for because I was wondering if the couple had special reason to be concerned about the possibility of Downs syndrome:

Because she was 34, she and her husband were concerned about the possibility of genetic disorders. Experts testified that about 1 in 250 women that age give birth to a child with Down syndrome. A first-trimester screening showed Deborah Levy's chances were estimated to be higher than average, at about 1 in 130.

Suppose the doctors correctly predict downs syndrome (or any other disability) and the parent chooses to have the child anyway, is that child entitled to sue the parents for wrongful birth?

If so it rapidly becomes an issue of where to draw the line, if not then why is the doctor more accountable for an error than the parents are for an intentional decision?

krev82 wrote:

If so it rapidly becomes an issue of where to draw the line, if not then why is the doctor more accountable for an error than the parents are for an intentional decision?

I don't see those scenarios being close enough to draw any kind of line...
The Hospital/Doctor is a professional entity serving customers/patients in exchange for money.
Parents are human entities enslaved by custom and biological imperative to the helpless creatures they must shepherd to a point of self-actuation as participants of society in exchange for a dizzying range of emotions, trials, experiences, and an almost absolute redefining of whatever life they may have once led.

Should parents be allowed to 'abort' an infant after birth, if defects are found after birth that would have resulted in the parents' aborting the fetus prior to birth had they known about them?

I'm pretty sure that would be past the point of no return on the whole murder/abortion issue no matter who you ask.

I could see any argument for both pre- and post-birth actions falling under the umbrella of Eugenics, though I think that topic deserves a thread to itself at some point in the future.

Crispus wrote:

Should parents be allowed to 'abort' an infant after birth, if defects are found after birth that would have resulted in the parents' aborting the fetus prior to birth had they known about them?

Cold Hard Reality time.
Legality aside.
I don't believe that the parents able to make that decision would ask for permission first or forgiveness after.

DanyBoy wrote:

I'm pretty sure that would be past the point of no return on the whole murder/abortion issue no matter who you ask.

Depending on the condition one might make an ethical argument that life will be so horrid for such a child that it may be best to terminate before it acquires a sense of identity, attachments, and agency. I do not expect such views to ever become widespread enough to change anything however.

That said infanticide has been remarkably common throughout human history and across cultures for various reasons. Even in the modern era there's a lurking suggestion that far more of it happens than most people would like to openly admit, perhaps presented under various guises or else not publicly presented at all. Commonality does in itself not imply moral nor ethical but perhaps if we were all more open about these things we could temper the knee jerk reactions when the issues arise and from there properly discuss them and figure out what exactly is 'best'.

krev82 wrote:

Suppose the doctors correctly predict downs syndrome (or any other disability) and the parent chooses to have the child anyway, is that child entitled to sue the parents for wrongful birth?

Well, no, in US states recognising that cause of action, it is rather narrowly defined. It is limited to instances where voluntary sterilization is not performed correctly or where a screening with demonstrable intent to terminate goes wrong( as in this case) or where a termination is not completed properly. Less common are instances where a woman is not properly advised when certain medications have adverse effects on birth control.

Other jurisdictions also recognize a civil suit where a rape victim carries to term against the rapist.

A wedding gown makes for a darkly appropriate product to hawk in an abortion thread, Spambot.

Huh. That's.... wow. Man, I hope that was a spambot, and not an actual person spamming.

Kannon wrote:

Huh. That's.... wow. Man, I hope that was a spambot, and not an actual person spamming.

It's a spambot, it's made weird ad pitches in a bunch of threads.