Down Syndrome

Downs ChromosomesThere is no doubt that parents love their children in whatever condition they are born.  Babies born with birth injuries, genetic problems, and chromosomal abnormalities are still our children, and will be loved, cherished and cared for.

One way that parents can help to take care of a child who has unusually high medical expenses is to hold negligent doctors and health care providers responsible.  In most birth injury cases, this means making a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional who did something wrong which caused injury, like the failure to perform a cesarean section might damage the brain of a child, causing cerebral palsy.

There are three other types of birth injury claims which may be available when a baby is born, though the parents would have chosen not to go forward with the birth.  Not all of these claims are available in every state, and the damages (money) recoverable vary from state to state.  These claims are:

  • Wrongful Birth: When a child is born with a serious physical problem like some chromosomal abnormalities or genetic defects, the parents may make a claim for wrongful birth if the condition should have been discovered in time to obtain a lawful abortion.
  • Wrongful Life: Wrongful life lawsuits are exactly like wrongful birth lawsuits, but they are brought by the child instead of the parents.  Some courts don’t allow these claims on the philosophical grounds that a person cannot claim he would have been “better off” if he wasn’t born.
  • Wrongful Pregnancy:  Often called wrongful sterilization or wrongful conception cases, these claims may be made for the birth of a healthy child or an injured child.  In these cases, a sterilization procedure, like a tubal ligation or vasectomy was negligently performed, leading to the birth of a child.

Facts About Down Syndrome

Our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, one from each parent.  During development of babies with Down Syndrome, one of those pairs of chromosomes splits abnormally, resulting in extra genetic material.   Down Syndrome is only inherited in about four percent of affected children.

Down Syndrome causes several telltale physical and mental features, including stunted growth, intellectual disability and congenital heart disease.  People with Down Syndrome have a shorter life expectancy—usually about 60 years of age.  However, many medical conditions are more common among the aging Down Syndrome population, including Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

Wrongful Birth Claims For Children With Down Syndrome

Parents are routinely offered the opportunity for genetic screening, and particularly so when there is a family history of genetic or chromosomal abnormalities.  Especially for parents who are considered high risk, genetic counseling and special tests, like ultrasoundschorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, should be offered.  If those tests are not offered, or are negligently performed, the parents may have a claim for wrongful birth.

Not all parents are comfortable making these claims.  Children with Down Syndrome are capable of so much in terms of personal growth, empathy, and love.  By its very nature, a wrongful birth claims requires the parent to state unequivocally that she would have lawfully terminated the pregnancy had she known her child had Down Syndrome.  It’s a very personal choice, and some people would not make that decision under any circumstances (see here for a personal blog post about one woman’s choice).

The other issue is that a wrongful birth lawsuit can provide the parents with ample money to take care of the numerous medical problems that a child with Down Syndrome could face, including expensive heart surgeries and special education.  Many parents, without that money, are forced to rely on governmental assistance, paid for by taxpayers. The alternative is holding a negligent medical care provider responsible.

Contact Us

No matter what type of birth injury or medical condition your child has, if you believe that it may have been preventable or caused by negligence, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (888)-452-4912, or send us a message through our website.  We can help explain your rights. 

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