A jury in Oregon awarded $2.9M to the parents of a Down Syndrome baby who sued for “wrongful birth” after their daughter was unexpectedly born with the abnormality.
Ariel and Deborah Levy say they would have aborted their now 4-year-old daughter had they known about the condition back in 2007.
Initially overjoyed at the birth, they say they were left in a state of shock when hospital staff told them their daughter looked like she had Down Syndrome.
A doctor then asked Deborah Levy if she’d had a prenatal test, to which Levy responded in the affirmative – the results of the test had revealed they would have a normal, healthy child.
Deborah Levy, 39, had taken a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test before the birth and the results showed their child would be normal.
‘We were told we had nothing to worry about,’ Ariel Levy told jurors.
But days after Kalanit was born, her mother was taking her to the doctor ‘to show her off’ and he delivered the blow – a blood test confirmed the baby had Down. “It was devastating,” Mrs Levy said.
The couple’s attorney claimed in the case that Dr. Thomas Jenkins removed tissue in the womb from Mrs Levy, rather than from the baby, when he carried out the procedure at the clinic.
The suit points the blame at the doctor and lab workers who did not realize they were testing maternal tissue.
Women over the age of 35 are also encouraged to have the test, as there is an increased risk of Down syndrome. It involves taking tissue from the fetus while in the womb and screening the sample for abnormalities.
Due to her age, the couple was vigilant about testing, undergoing the CVS at 13 weeks. It is believed one in 250 women at that age give birth to a child with Down syndrome.
Studies suggest that more than 89% of women choose to abort a fetus with Down syndrome.
After their daughter was born with the syndrome, the Levy’s expressed their fears over her future, including medical and social issues, and whether she would get the required educational support.
Reportedly, experts have told them she will probably not be able to live on her own or support herself. It is estimated she will live until her mid-50s.
She is able to speak in two-word sentences which only her parents and a few others understand. No one knows if she will improve with age.
The couple sued Legacy Health for $3M, claiming that Deborah Levy would have aborted her pregnancy had she known her daughter had Down Syndrome.
The lawsuit blamed Legacy’s Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Portland and a Legacy lab for allegedly botching the test.
The Levy’s, who insist they love their daughter, Kalanit – wanted Legacy to pay for the extra lifetime costs of caring for her.
According to experts, there are fewer than 10 ‘wrongful birth’ cases in the U.S. every year as prenatal tests are 99.7% accurate, and few parents want to face a legal challenge if they do fail.
Yet experts believe there could be a boom in the lawsuits as women in their late 30s and 40s are increasingly having babies and relying on genetic screenings to signal problems.
Defense attorneys argued, once the Levy’s found out she had Down syndrome, Kalanit was no longer worth showing off — especially not when they characterize their other 2 sons as bright and intelligent. The Levy’s had the perfect family until their little girl had the audacity to be born with an extra chromosome, and now, they want to be paid off in order to deal with the burden of raising her.
Do the Levy’s see any value in their daughter’s life? Or is she just a hassle, a child with a price tag, that they wish they could have gotten rid of? Instead of looking at their daughter as the miracle and blessing she is, attorneys argued these parents look at her as a burden, a child they wish they could have aborted… a child they need to be paid off in order to raise.
The jury voted 12-0, taking less than 6 hours before reaching a verdict, capping a highly emotional trial.
The jury ruled that Legacy Health was negligent.
Deborah Levy, who had held her emotions in check throughout the trial, began to cry as the judge read the verdict.