Wrongful Birth & Failure to Diagnose Genetic Condition
New Jersey Wrongful Birth Lawyers
Representing NJ clients whose doctors failed to diagnose serious and terminal genetic conditions
Children with significant genetic disorders and birth defects have devastating disabilities that frequently cause unimaginable pain and suffering, and also may result in exorbitant medical costs and lifelong care. Today, due to advances in molecular genetics and fetal imaging through ultrasonography, many genetic disorders and birth defects can be identified early enough during pregnancy to allow the parents an opportunity to choose whether to allow the pregnancy to continue. If a doctor fails to inform you of your options, or if your child is not properly diagnosed, you have the right to file a wrongful birth lawsuit.
Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP offers compassionate yet practical guidance to parents who are dealing with the most emotional decision they may ever make. These are incredibly complicated, and incredibly sensitive, medical malpractice cases. Our New Jersey wrongful birth lawyers are some of the only attorneys in the state who handle these types of claims on a regular basis. We know that you have a lot to think about. Please call us to discuss your options in a no-cost confidential consultation.
Understanding wrongful birth and wrongful life claims
There are some medical conditions and birth defects that will lead to a life of pain, disability, and significant medical treatments. In many cases, the person with the condition will almost certainly die from it, or from complications arising from it. Even if the baby survives childhood, he or she many never be able to fully care for him or herself.
In many states, including New Jersey, if a genetic disorder or birth defect is not timely detected during the pregnancy due to medical negligence, the family can bring a wrongful birth claim. A family may also choose to bring such a claim if they were not informed of all their legal options in regard to carrying a pregnancy to full term. For example, if a woman is denied her legal right to terminate a pregnancy, she may be able to file a wrongful birth claim. Wrongful life claims can be made on behalf of the child him or herself.
The damages in a wrongful birth case include the extraordinary costs associated with caring for a child with a genetic disorder or birth defect, as well as any lost wages (past, present, and future), and the emotional turmoil suffered by the parents. In a wrongful life claim, damages are claimed on behalf of the child, but they are limited in scope: generally speaking, you can only claim damages for medical costs, and only under certain circumstances.
Are wrongful birth claims the same as birth injury cases?
No, they are not. Birth injury cases usually revolve around an act of medical negligence which led to a baby’s injury. In some case, maternal injuries may also be considered birth injury cases.
Wrongful birth cases deal with genetic conditions and birth defects. Birth defects are almost always congenital, meaning they affect the genetic makeup of the fetus.
The one thing both types of lawsuits have in common, though, is this: neither one of them is your fault. Parents often blame themselves when their children are injured, or have a birth defect. The truth is, the vast majority of these scenarios are beyond your control. What is in your control is the ability to hold a negligent medical professional accountable if you were not informed of your rights, or if he or she injures your baby by an act of medical malpractice.
Birth defects and wrongful birth lawsuits
Not all birth defects are harmful, or might warrant a wrongful birth claim. Heterochromia, for example, is a birth defect that causes a person’s eyes to be two different colors. There are many, however, that will lead to a severely diminished quality of life. At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP, our NJ wrongful birth attorneys assist families whose children have developed conditions like:
- Neural tube defects. Neural tube defects affect the brain, spine, or spinal cord. They develop within the first month of a woman’s pregnancy – often before she even realizes she is pregnant. Some neural tube defects, like anencephaly, will almost always lead to the death of the child right after birth. Others, like holoprosencephaly (HPE), will lead to a lifetime of necessary medical care if the child survives. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida, which can vary in severity.
- Metabolic disorders. A metabolic disorder affects how your body breaks down nutrients and wastes, and how it converts the food you eat into energy. Among the most serious is Tay-Sachs disease, which affects the brain and nerve cells.
- Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition which affects the development of the brain, and often presents with distinct facial features. Aside from a degree of cognitive disability (which can vary from child to child), the condition can also lead to heart problems, vision problems, and hearing problems.
- Cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive disorder that affects the digestive and respiratory systems. Thanks to medical research, children born with CF are living longer, but many will eventually suffer total respiratory failure.
- Sickle cell disease. Unlike other birth defects, sickle cell disease itself rarely proves fatal – but it is an incurable disease whose primary symptoms are constant fatigue and pain. It can lead to vision problems, frequent infections, and swelling of the feet. Sickle cell can also lead to complications such as strokes, organ damage, and acute chest syndrome, all of which can be fatal. The disease affects primarily people of color, and both parents should be tested for the sickle cell traits before attempting to conceive a child.
- Congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects vary in severity, but about 25% of all children with CHDs will have a “critical congenital heart disease.” Some children will need to undergo multiple surgeries and medical procedures in order to survive, and may not ever be fully cured. Some CHDs will lead to the heart being malformed, or to missing parts of the heart.
Many of these conditions and defects (and others) can be found through some, by testing the parents for inherited genetic traits.
Your rights under New Jersey’s laws
In New Jersey, you are legally allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any time up to 24 weeks. Up until 14 weeks, you can have this medical procedure performed at any licensed facility or hospital; once you are at the 14th week mark, however, you must undergo the procedure at a “licensed hospital.”
Under the law, you may terminate a pregnancy for any reason.
Proving negligence in a NJ wrongful birth case
In order to make a successful claim for damages in a wrongful birth case in NJ, you must prove that a doctor/client relationship existed; that the doctor failed to uphold the duty of care he or she owed to you; that this breach of care led to an injury, harm, or loss; and that the injury, harm, or loss resulted in damages.
For these types of delicate cases, that breach of duty likely took the form of:
- Failure to explain informed consent
- Failure to explain all legal medical options
- Failure to take a proper medical history
- Failure to order the correct tests
- Improper reading of diagnostic tests
- Failure to diagnose a genetic condition
- Failure to explain potential risks or harms that could befall the child
No matter how or why the act of negligence occurred, the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP have the experience you need on your side to pursue a claim. We promise to treat you with dignity, and your case with discretion and compassion. If litigation becomes necessary, we will fight on your behalf for the damages you and your child need. You can trust us to do right by you.
We know that you love your child. A wrongful birth claim is not about your family; it is about an act of medical negligence which made it impossible for you to make an informed decision about what was best for the future. A successful claim can help you protect the child you love, and ensure that he or she can have the best quality of life possible.
Learn more about pursuing a wrongful birth claim in New Jersey
From offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, our New Jersey wrongful birth lawyers advise and represent clients in medical malpractice and personal injury litigation matters throughout New Jersey. To schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team, please call Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP at 732-777-0100, or fill out our contact form.