Care costs awarded for wrongful birth
<court>Rockland County (NY) Supreme Court</court>
A 31-year-old woman had first-trimester and third-trimester bleeding, although results from 2 early ultrasounds were normal, as was a 20-week ultrasound.
Out of town about 3 weeks before her delivery date, the woman began profuse bleeding. Her physician told her to proceed to a local emergency department, which transferred her to another facility, where she learned for the first time that the fetus had intrauterine growth retardation.
Amniocentesis performed at a third facility revealed fetal chromosomal abnormality and Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. She was told the infant would eventually have mental retardation, physical disfigurement, hearing loss, an inability to speak, and respiratory and feeding difficulties. The woman remained hospitalized and under strict bed rest until delivery. The infant was hospitalized for 4 months and then institutionalized because of the impending profound disabilities.
The woman filed suit for wrongful birth, claiming she would have had an abortion if she had known her infant’s prognosis. She claimed her local physicians failed to properly monitor the pregnancy; failed to inform her that first-trimester bleeding indicates a chance of chromosomal damage; inappropriately advised her not to have alpha fetoprotein testing; failed to inform her or follow up on the 20-week ultrasound showing a 2-week discrepancy between her estimated due date and fetal development; and failed to obtain fundal heights measurements.
The defendants asserted they had no knowledge of the woman as their patient at the time of the trial. They also contended that they believed the woman would not have aborted the pregnancy under any condition.
- The jury awarded the plaintiff $3.8 million (the estimated cost of care until age 21).
The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn (www.verdictslaska.com). The available information about the cases presented here is sometimes incomplete; thus, pertinent details of a given situation may be unavailable. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Nevertheless, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation and are meant to illustrate nationwide variation in jury verdicts and awards.