You may have heard of “wrongful death,” but many people are not familiar with “wrongful birth.” Wrongful birth means the parent or parents sue other individuals for being burdened (financially and emotionally) with a disabled child. Wrongful birth lawsuits are genetic or prenatal medical malpractice lawsuit tort cases.
In many cases, birth defects and/or genetic diseases can be identified early in the mother’s pregnancy to allow the parents an opportunity to decide whether they want to allow the pregnancy to continue or whether they will have the pregnancy terminated through abortion. In some states, New Jersey included, if a birth defect or genetic disorder is not detected during pregnancy because of the medical professional’s negligence, then a wrongful birth claim can be made.
Genetic disorders and diseases
It is common practice in the United States that obstetricians offer prenatal screening tests to their patients regardless of the patient’s age or medical history to detect:
- Sickle cell disease (typically in African-Americans
- Cystic fibrosis
- Canavans disease (typically in Jewish parents)
- Tay-Sachs disease
Down syndrome can be detected by an ultrasound examination that measures the clear space at the back of the neck. This ultrasound in combination with a blood test from the mother can help the obstetrician determine if further testing is necessary.
Proving wrongful birth
In order to pursue and win a valid wrongful birth claim, the attorneys at Weiss & Paarz, P.C. must prove that the medical provider’s negligence prevented them from realizing there was an increased risk that the fetus would suffer a genetic disorder or disease or a birth defect. We must also establish that the parents would have terminated the pregnancy had they known about the defect or disorder during the pregnancy. These claims are referred to as “wrongful birth” claims because the child would not have been born if the obstetrician were not negligent.
In New Jersey, if a parent wins a wrongful birth suit, the negligence medical provider must provide monetary compensation related to the child’s condition over the child’s entire lifetime. Additionally, compensation must be provided for the emotional trauma (injury) and mental anguish suffered by the parents.