Oregon Couples Wins ‘Wrongful Birth’ Lawsuit

A Portland, Oregon couple was awarded nearly $3 million in damages last week after they sued their health care providers for failing to diagnose their daughter with Down syndrome in utero.  Ariel and Deborah Levy sued for “wrongful birth” because they said had they known  the diagnosis, they would have opted to have an abortion.

The couple underwent a number of screening tests for Down’s syndrome, The Oregonian newspaper reports, including ultrasound screenings and bloodwork–which showed an elevated risk of the fetus having the disorder–and a procedure called chorionic villus sampling, or CVS–which showed that the fetus was did not in fact have Down’s.  The Levy’s lawsuit alleged the lab that conducted the CVS mistakenly analyzed Deborah Levy’s tissue, rather than the fetus’.

The Levys learned within a week of their daughter Kalanit’s birth that she did in fact have Down syndrome.  The couple, who has two older, healthy sons, sued for the estimated $3 million additional lifetime costs they will incur to care for Kalanit.  A jury, voting 12-0 after only 6 hours of deliberation, awarded the family nearly the entire amount.

The Oregonian reports on the broader issue of so-called “wrongful birth” lawsuits:

Experts say so few parents choose to file wrongful birth suits because it forces them to take an awkward position: They must be willing to say on the record that they would have aborted the pregnancy, and that they feel a burden — albeit financial — of raising the child.

The Levys’ attorney, David K. Miller, said his clients deeply love their daughter but worried about being portrayed as heartless. Miller said they sued because they worried about providing all that their daughter would need over her lifetime. Experts testified that she will continue to need speech and physical therapy and face a concerning list of possible medical problems over her lifetime. Professionals have told the Levys that she will likely never be able to live independently, or earn a living.

According to several studies, 89 percent or more of expectant mothers who learned their children would have Down syndrome chose to terminate the pregnancies.

Image: Gavel, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by John West

    On March 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This is stupid. Their health care givers didn’t cause the new born to have downs. And yes, I think the parents care more about themselves than their new daughter. The fact that health care for the child will cost so much is due in large part to all the people suing health care providers! It doesn’t suprise me this happened in one of our “socialist” states. Welfare roles are also high from what I understand.

  2. by eunice b

    On March 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    So disturbing! How do we think we are so wise as humans to decide if someone should have life or not? God is the giver and should be the only taker of that life.

  3. by C

    On March 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    They must have read Jodi Picoult’s book, “Handle with Care”. I wonder of they’ve thought about how to explain this law suit to their daughter. It’s quite a blow to hear that your parents would have aborted you because of who you are.

  4. by Susan

    On March 14, 2012 at 6:27 am

    This story made me sick to my stomach. And yes, these parents are heartless, they are disgusting. My daughter’s tests all came back negative and she was born with Down syndrome. I never thought to sue anyone, I never blamed the doctor’s for not catching it. She is my daughter, I love her more each day I am with her. I thank God for her. It’s your body and your decision, I don’t need to know about what you do in the privacy of your Doctor’s office. But how could you stand in a courtroom and say in front of a judge and jury that you wished you had been given the opportunity to kill the baby laying swadled in your arms? Then have 12 people agree with you and pay you millions? All the while hoping no one sees you as heartless. Heartless? That is the BEST description I can give these parents. What is this world coming to?

  5. by Ashley

    On March 14, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here for a minute, and also say this article is not entirely true. When I first read the article (not on this website), it stated that several tests had been done and the doctor messed up the tests and the lab also messed up tests. It stated that they were suing for malpractice against the doctor, not just “wrongful birth”. The article also went on to say the parents loved their daughter, would NOT have gotten an abortion if they had known in advance, and if they won the money it would be put towards her medical needs. The parents just wished they had known prior to her birth so they would have been able to prepare more. They stated the “abortion” in the official hearing because if they hadn’t, it would have been more difficult to receive the money. They really aren’t as “heartless” as this article has made them out to be.

  6. by nicole

    On March 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Absolutely disturbing!! They claim to love her deeply,,,but if they would have known about her down syndrome, she wouldn’t even be here. How can these parents even know what this young little life is capable of…..she may well exceed all their expectations. I hope she does….I just hope she never finds out about this story. As a parent I cannot even fathom how one can justify this as being right, they were awarded money because they didn’t get the chance to end their daughters life, and they feel that is there right? I will pray for this sweet little girl and that her parents will have repentant hearts…….

  7. by Wes

    On March 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

    They need money to help care for a child with special needs for the rest of her life; care which they had not anticipated or planned for due to inability & misdiagnosis by their health care provider. Briging the Suit to get the help they needed under the law provided was their only legal recourse. The legislators required that the pleading of saying that we would have aborted as a required part of the pleading after being lobbied for such with the hopes of discouraging law suits for funds which will be needed in such instances. All of you who are ridiculing these parents w/o a full understanding of the law & the demands that caring for such a child entails should be ashamed of yourselves. Which of you intends to donate the 3 million or more which will be required to care for this child & others like her for the rest of her life? Judgmental hypocrites!

  8. by doug mccsin

    On March 16, 2012 at 1:49 am

    That. Has to be the most irresponsible people I have ever seen thats neglic on They’re behalf at
    n abortion is wrong in the first place but just because your child a work of god isnt to your standard. Thats thats just ignorant I would say but thats just stupidd if you wouldnt bring a child into world because you feel more obligation because they’re speacial. You should be ashamed of yourselves and never should’ve been allowed kids in the first place if your motives were to cash out. Ps im 21 ndi know that yall dont deserve the baby.

  9. by Barby

    On March 16, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Even if the parents love this child and would not have really had an abortion, but made the point to further their cause in the hearing, it will be cases like this that will help fuel the “after-birth abortion” discussion in this country.

  10. by AVCurmudgeon

    On March 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Ashley writes: “They stated the “abortion” in the official hearing because if they hadn’t, it would have been more difficult to receive the money. They really aren’t as “heartless” as this article has made them out to be.”

    Not heartless, merely perjurers. That is so much better.

  11. by AVCurmudgeon

    On March 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Barby: “it will be cases like this that will help fuel the “after-birth abortion” discussion in this country.”

    “After-birth abortion” means that a doctor kills a living human being. Where I come from, that’s called murder.

  12. by sherri

    On March 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    God said “we are not to judge”, we don’t honestly know what we would have done, unless we were put in their place. We shouldn’t cast stones, because we are not perfect.

  13. by Dawn

    On May 3, 2012 at 3:33 am

    “They need money to help care for a child with special needs for the rest of her life; care which they had not anticipated or planned for due to inability & misdiagnosis by their health care provider. Briging the Suit to get the help they needed under the law provided was their only legal recourse. The legislators required that the pleading of saying that we would have aborted as a required part of the pleading after being lobbied for such with the hopes of discouraging law suits for funds which will be needed in such instances. All of you who are ridiculing these parents w/o a full understanding of the law & the demands that caring for such a child entails should be ashamed of yourselves. Which of you intends to donate the 3 million or more which will be required to care for this child & others like her for the rest of her life? Judgmental hypocrites!”

    Oh Wes, shut up. Who the hell are you to talk about a precious life being born with Down syndrome? You talk like you think you know SO much, but you are simply a fool defending these “HEARTLESS” parents. They put a price on their little girl’s life, you dumb ass. And I wonder why your parents decided to keep you? You cost them way too much money, and see what they ended up with? garbage.

    I am a single parent raising a beautiful boy who happens to also have Downs syndrome, which I was fully aware of during my first trimester. He is a JOY, he is AMAZING, and he was born weighing only 1 pound 6 oz. at birth. He is a miracle, he is a gift from God. He is in the 5th grade and making great progress, no health problems, just wears glasses and has slight hearing loss in one ear. I work, I provide for him, and he has special needs, yes…but in his lifetime, it will cost nowhere close to a million. I suppose if he had a heart condition it may. But in all of this, we need to remember that wrongful birth, is a very very sad thing to say in the midst of a life that is living, breathing, in your world, your daughter, your flesh and blood, that you would not have wanted to keep…had you known of the imperfection. God is the Judge and Jury here. He does not make that which is not perfect. Every life is created for a reason, beyond our human understanding. This little girl may prove everyone wrong, I pray she does.