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Portland couple sues for 'wrongful birth'

Many Oregon residents have brought forth civil litigation in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit before. This is when a plaintiff seeks monetary damages for a death that they suspect was caused by the negligence of others. While this concept might be common, a recent civil suit that recently came to a close in Portland, Oregon was labeled a "wrongful birth" lawsuit.

A jury awarded a couple almost $3 million after their child was born with Down syndrome. The reason the couple felt that negligence was involved is that they initially feared that their child might have a genetic disorder, and had doctors at Legacy Health System conduct genetic testing to see if that were the case.

Doctors administered genetic testing on the 34-year-old woman, who discovered she was pregnant in 2006. The couple feared a genetic disorder based on the woman's age. However, doctors analyzed some tissue extracted from the woman's womb and told her that the child seemed to be fine and did not have any chromosomal abnormalities. Even when doctors conducted ultrasounds on the woman and found indicators of Down syndrome, they continued to assure the couple that the child did not have the genetic disorder.

After all the inaccurate reassuring, the couple was hit with the news a week after their child was born that the infant did have Down syndrome. The parents admitted that if they received accurate reports and discovered early enough that their child had Down syndrome, they would have aborted the pregnancy.

They filed a civil suit against the hospital, claiming that doctors botched the testing by testing tissue from the mother instead of testing tissue from the baby. A jury found the medical establishment to be negligent and awarded the couple $2.9 million. This money will be used for the extra care their child will require, as it is doubtful she will ever be able to live on her own.

One expert said cases known as "wrongful birth" cases can be rare both because testing is generally reliable and parents fear judgment when they openly admit they have aborted a pregnancy involving a child with a genetic defect.

Source: Imperfect Parent, "Portland couple wins 'wrongful birth' lawsuit," Melissa Schwartz, March 10, 2012

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