Legal: Failure to offer prenatal genetic testing results in trisomy 21 infant

January 1, 2009

Not offering genetic testing for a 42-year-old woman results in Down syndrome.

A 42-year-old New Jersey woman underwent an ultrasound during her pregnancy and the radiologist who interpreted the U/S reported it as normal. After delivery, the infant was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The woman then sued the obstetrician and radiologist, alleging wrongful birth. She argued the obstetrician failed to order a targeted U/S that was warranted due to maternal age. She claimed this would have focused on the fetal anatomical markers known to be associated with Down syndrome and resulted in an amniocentesis and prenatal diagnosis. She also alleged she should have been referred to a genetic counselor to discuss the risks of genetic abnormality and the risks of amniocentesis. She claimed negligence by the radiologist and his practice for failing to identify a thickened nuchal fold on U/S. An $8.23 million verdict was returned, with the obstetrician being assessed 85% liability and the radiology defendants 15% of the liability.

Department editor DAWN COLLINS, JD, is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to dawncfree@gmail.com
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