While it's not uncommon for hospitals and doctors to be found legally liable for “wrongful death,” a King County, Wash. jury recently returned a $50 million verdict against a public hospital for a “wrongful birth.” It’s a legal cause of action that is recognized in 25 states in the U.S., Washington being one of them. Pro-life and children with disabilities activists argue that such laws encourage abortion and reflective of societal intolerance for people with disabilities.
The multi-million dollar award in this particular case is meant to pay for the lifetime care of Oliver Wuth. His father, Brock, discovered his family was a carrier for a rare genetic defect that could be passed on to his children. Thus, before he and his wife Rhea decided to get pregnant, the couple requested a genetic test from the Valley Medical Center’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Clinic, who subcontracted the test to Dynacare Laboratories, a subsidiary of LabCorps.
The problem was that to successfully screen for that specific chromosomal abnormality, the lab would have needed more specific information that the hospital failed to provide. Brock’s test results indicated no abnormalities in 2008. Oliver was born in 2012. Ironically, the mistake happened because of economic cutbacks that saw the reduction of genetic counseling services and the inability to replace the unit’s full-time manager. Valley Medical Center and LabCorps will split the cost of the jury award.
According to Seattlepi.com, the case went before the jury because Oliver’s lifetime care is estimated to cost more than $20 million over his lifetime, but LabCorps said that if the child were to live in “a group home with occasional nursing care, the boy would only need about $2.3 million in support.” Despite Oliver’s severe disability, his potential to live a long life “is not expected to be shortened by his disease.”