Medical malpractice lawsuits are legion in the American civil court system. Doctors and other medical professionals are on the hook any time they depart from the accepted standards and practices of their professions. True medical negligence is a serious matter because it breaches the trust that we have in our doctors and nurses.
Medical professionals clearly need to be held responsible when their negligence results in the death of a patient, but what if that same negligence results in a life?
A Portland, Oregon couple explored this legal and ethical question when they filed a "wrongful birth" lawsuit against the doctors who failed to identify that their unborn daughter had a serious genetic condition known as Down's Syndrome.
Down's Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that causes severe mental and physical disability. Ariel and Deborah Levy told ABC News that their doctors were negligent with regards to their pre-natal care for failing to identify the serious condition. Had they known, the Levys argue, they would not have chosen to carry their pregnancy to term.
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The Levys' case is unique because their doctors didn't simply fail to diagnose a condition, they made affirmative statements to both Ariel and Deborah that their unborn child was free of any identifiable genetic malady.
Thirteen weeks into Deborah Levy's pregnancy, her doctor tested a sample of tissue from her fetus and concluded that the fetus was free of any chromosomal abnormalities. It was discovered at trial that subsequent tests suggested the baby might have Down's Syndrome, but that the doctors continued to assure the Levys that nothing was wrong.
The jury sympathized with the Levys' plight. They found Legacy Health liable for five instance of negligence and awarded the couple a $2.9 million verdict to help them raise a child with special needs.
The Levys' daughter is now four years old.
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"It's been difficult for them," said David K. Miller, the Levys' lawyer. "There's been a lot of misinformation out there. These are parents who love this little girl very, very much. Their mission since the beginning was to provide for her and that's what this is all about."
Legacy Health was less pleased with the result and retains the right to appeal the jury's verdict. They released the following statement: "While Legacy Health has great respect for the judicial process, we are disappointed in today's verdict. The legal team from Legacy Health will be reviewing the record and considering available options."