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Errors in prenatal genetic test result in $50M malpractice verdict

The parents of a severely disabled child say that their doctors botched a genetic test while the mother was pregnant. Following a medical malpractice lawsuit against the facilities involved, the jury awarded the family $50 million in damages.

The father has a family history of unbalanced chromosome translocation, a rare genetic disorder that causes severe disabilities. Concerned about possibly passing on the condition to his children, he and his wife underwent genetic counseling and testing. They were told that there was a 50 percent chance that a child they have would develop the condition, which can be detected during pregnancy.

When the woman became pregnant, her doctors ordered a prenatal test to see if the fetus had the condition. But the medical center failed to provide important information to the lab that is necessary to find the abnormality. Despite this, the lab never called to ask for this data. It appears that staff cutbacks at the medical clinic contributed to the errors.

Because the prenatal test was flawed, the child’s disorder was not detected. He was born with severe mental and physical disabilities, and will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life. The parents said they would have terminated the pregnancy if they had known that the father had passed on the condition.

It is not clear how much each defendant will have to pay of the $50 million medical malpractice award. The money will likely go toward caring for the son. The size of the award suggests that some of the damages were punitive, to send a message to the defendants about their behavior.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Couple Awarded $50 Million After Son Born With Severe Disabilities,” Carol M. Ostrom, Dec. 13, 2013

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