Giving birth is one of life’s ultimate joys, and if your baby suffers from a defect, that doesn’t mean you love it any less.
But if your doctor didn’t discover the defect before birth, or if the doctor knew of the defect but failed to tell you, then you could sue for wrongful birth.
Suing for wrongful birth doesn’t involve mistakes or incompetency during delivery but rather prenatal care. Wrongful birth lawsuits are difficult and require an attorney with a special skill set. Is a wrongful birth lawsuit right for you?
How a wrongful birth occurs
Wrongful birth occurs when a medical professional fails to inform parents of fetal abnormalities that result in birth defects. The lawsuit seeks to show that if the doctor had performed proper tests, or interpreted those tests correctly, or informed the parents of the risks of genetic diseases, the parents would have been better able to make healthcare decisions for the mother and the baby.
A wrongful birth lawsuit seeks compensation for therapy, equipment, care, surgery, tuition for special schools and other costs. Parents may also sue for emotional and mental distress.
A recent case
On Jan. 10, an Iowa jury awarded two parents $11.6 million for future care and services in a wrongful birth lawsuit. The jury also awarded the mother about $1.7 million and the father $1.2 million for current and future emotional distress, for a total of about $14.5 million for the plaintiffs.
According to reports, the mother claims that in her 22nd week of pregnancy, a radiologist told her the fetus displayed “head abnormalities” and recommended follow-up tests, but another radiologist and her doctor both said the baby was in normal health.
Some birth defects detectible through prenatal testing that are commonly involved in wrongful birth cases are:
- Spina bifida – the bones of the spine do not form correctly
- Cystic fibrosis – fluids in the body become thick
- Anencephaly – baby lacks parts of brain and skull
- Down syndrome – intellectual disability
- Holoprosencephaly – single-lobed brain with skull and facial defects
There have also been wrongful life lawsuits filed by children who suffered from birth defects. These suits are difficult because, while a wrongful birth lawsuit may seek to make the parents whole as they were before the birth, there is no injury-free state to base a wrongful life claim for a child born with defects that were detectible.