Birth defects are fairly common, occurring in one out of 33 babies in the United States. Doctors and other medical professionals have a legal obligation to inform parents about known risks that their child may have a birth defect. Medical providers who withhold this information from parents, who fail to perform necessary prenatal tests, or who otherwise don’t meet the applicable standards of care may be committing medical malpractice.
Wrongful Birth Lawsuits
When doctors or other healthcare professionals fail to properly warn parents of the risk that their child may have birth defects, the parents may be able to sue the medical providers or the hospitals for wrongful birth. In a wrongful birth lawsuit, the parents claim that they were unable to make an informed choice about whether to conceive a child or to continue with a pregnancy because they were not properly warned of the risks.
The term “wrongful birth” may be misleading. It doesn’t mean that a parent wishes their child had not been born. Instead, a wrongful birth case seeks justice by holding medical providers responsible for their negligence. The goal of the lawsuit is to relieve parents of the financial burden of the extra costs involved in raising a child with a serious disability.
People may have genetic conditions that create a high risk that their children will have major birth defects. If, during genetic counseling, their medical provider negligently fails to diagnose a genetic problem or does not inform them of the problem, the parents may sue for wrongful birth. They may claim that if they had been given accurate information about their genetic risks, they wouldn’t have conceived a child, or they would have terminated the pregnancy.
Inadequate Prenatal Testing
Many birth defects can be detected with prenatal tests. If a doctor negligently fails to perform necessary tests, interprets the tests incorrectly, or fails to inform the parents about the test results, then the parents can sue for wrongful birth, claiming that if they had known of the risks, they would have ended the pregnancy.
Failure to Diagnose Disease
Doctors may also commit medical malpractice if they fail to diagnose a disease the mother has during pregnancy that could cause the developing fetus to have a birth defect. For example, if a woman has German measles early in her pregnancy, the disease may infect the fetus and cause congenital rubella syndrome, a serious condition that can cause severe problems with the child’s heart, vision, hearing, bones, and cognitive abilities. When a doctor fails to diagnose a mother’s disease, the wrongful birth claim would be that the mother would have terminated the pregnancy if she had known of the risks.
The Difference Between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect
Birth injuries are the result of problems during labor and delivery. Birth defects, on the other hand, arise while the fetus is developing, usually within the first three months of pregnancy.
Causes of birth defects include genetic factors, exposure to toxic substances, and infections during pregnancy. For some birth defects, the cause is unknown.
Medical malpractice suits can be brought for both birth injuries and birth defects. However, the claims are different. For birth injuries, the claim is that medical professionals were negligent in the care they gave during labor and delivery, did not properly anticipate delivery problems, or did not provide proper treatment after birth. For birth defects, the claim is that the medical professionals failed to warn the parents of the risk their child would be born with a defect.
What Kind of Compensation Can Parents Expect in a Wrongful Birth Case?
When parents receive a settlement or a court award for a wrongful birth lawsuit, they will get compensation for the medical costs they incur because of their child’s birth defect. The symptoms and severity of birth defects vary considerably. The amount a parent can expect in a wrongful birth case will also vary depending on the extent of the problems and the disabilities that the birth defect has caused.
Some birth defects can be successfully treated. For example, a cleft palate can be repaired with surgery. Other birth defects can’t be cured, but medical treatment can help reduce problems and improve the quality of life. The treatment required is often substantial, may involve care from multiple specialists, and may be needed throughout the person’s lifetime. This care may include doctors’ treatment and monitoring, surgeries, medications, physical and speech therapy, medical equipment, and assistive devices. The compensation from a wrongful birth lawsuit is intended to relieve parents of the financial burden of paying for the care associated with the child’s birth defect.
Compensation may also be awarded for other costs, such as tuition fees if the child needs to attend a special school, costs of remodeling the home if necessary to accommodate assistive devices, and the parents’ emotional distress and lost wages caused by caring for a child with a birth defect.
Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney for Help With a Wrongful Birth Claim
To pursue a birth defect claim, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Proving that medical providers did not meet their legal obligations to inform you of birth defect risks is a complex and technical undertaking. The lawyers must gather medical records and testimony from medical experts, interpret the evidence, put it together, and present it in a way that makes a compelling case to the medical provider’s insurance company if the case settles or to a jury if the case goes to trial.
The attorneys at the Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer law firm have extensive experience fighting for the rights of victims of medical malpractice. Our firm has been honored repeatedly for having the best attorneys in the state and the country. We are committed to every one of our clients and are proud to represent people, not just handle cases. We would be glad to meet with you and talk to you about your options. Call us at 1-800-535-1797 for a no-obligation free consultation.
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