Prenatal misdiagnosis refers to identifiable birth defects or genetic diseases during a woman’s pregnancy which are not diagnosed due to healthcare provider negligence. This failure deprives the parents of an opportunity to choose whether or not to continue the pregnancy and/or whether to conceive in the future. If a healthcare provider’s negligence is the cause of a birth defect or genetic disease not being discovered during pregnancy, in some states including New Jersey, a wrongful birth claim can be made.
Obstetricians are required to inform a pregnant woman of available prenatal screening blood tests which include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Canavans Disease (if of Jewish descent)
- Sickle Cell Disease (if of African American descent)
- Tay – Sachs disease (if of Jewish or Cajun descent)
- Thallasemias (if of Mediterranean or Southeast Asian descent)
A test referred to as a quadruple screen should be offered to a pregnant woman between 16 and 18 weeks gestation. A test result that is abnormally high or low could be associated with an increased risk of Down syndrome and/or neural tube defects. If the quadruple screen result is abnormal, the patient should be offered further testing which may include an ultrasound or amniocentesis to assist with arriving at a definitive diagnosis.
An ultrasound or sonogram should be performed at 16 to 22 weeks gestation to evaluate fetal anatomy. Many fetal anomalies can be detected if the examination is performed thoroughly and include neural tube defects, heart and brain defects, Down syndrome and missing organs and bones.
The following is a list of common mistakes made in prenatal misdiagnosis cases:
failure to take a thorough genetic screening history of both parents
failure to offer appropriate prenatal testing at the required gestational age
failure to offer the quadruple screen at the required gestational age
misplacing prenatal screening results by the obstetrician or by office
improper laboratory interpretation of prenatal screening tests
improper interpretation of the ultrasound or sonogram surveying fetal
In order to recover for a prenatal misdiagnosis or wrongful birth claim, the parents must prove that a healthcare provider was negligent and that the negligence prevented them from knowing that there was an increased risk that the fetus had a birth defect or genetic disease and they must prove that if told of the genetic disease or defect during the pregnancy, they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy and not to undertake the emotional hardship and financial responsibility involved in caring for a disabled child with a lifelong disability. If a wrongful birth claim is proven, the parents will receive monetary compensation for the special medical expenses and other extraordinary expenses related to the child’s condition for the duration of the child’s lifetime and also receive monetary compensation for the emotional injury and anguish endured by the parents for being forced to take on the lifetime burdens and tasks of raising a disabled child.
If your child has a birth defect or genetic disorder or disease that you suspect could have been detectable during pregnancy, getting compensation may be the only way to provide care and services needed to help your child receive optimum care and services. Please contact the medical malpractice attorneys at KMH&L to assist you.