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.

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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