NJ Malpractice Lawyers Handling Misdiagnosis of Down Syndrome Claims

Representing New Jersey clients in wrongful birth claims related to Down syndrome misdiagnoses

Learning that an unborn child has Down syndrome can create a heart-wrenching decision for a mother. Should she go ahead with the pregnancy, or exercise her right under New Jersey law to terminate it? While the choice is not an easy one, some parents are not given the information they need to make that decision. This can lead to a legal claim of wrongful birth against the health care provider.

The New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP have the experience, acumen, and integrity to successfully represent clients in wrongful birth cases. Our attorneys obtained significant verdicts and settlements on behalf of wrongful birth clients, including an $8.2 million verdict for a family with a 4-year-old child with Down syndrome.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. A person with Down syndrome has an extra copy (or an extra partial copy) of chromosome 21. The name Down syndrome comes from an English doctor, John Langdon Down, who first described the syndrome in 1866.

Down syndrome is the most common type of chromosomal disorder in America; per the National Down Syndrome Society, “approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common chromosomal condition. About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.”

Down syndrome usually presents with distinct facial properties: a flattening of the face, eye lids that slant slightly upward, smaller-than-average sized ears, and a slightly protruding tongue, among other features. Not every person diagnosed with Down syndrome will display all of these distinct characteristics.

Furthermore, Down syndrome usually leads to some level of cognitive difficulties and memory problems. Some people are able to live on their own in adulthood; others will require some level of care for the rest of their lives.

Types of Down syndrome

Down syndrome is categorized in three ways:

  • Trisomy 21, the most common form of Down syndrome caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell.
  • Mosaic, where only some cells have an extra copy of chromosome 21.
  • Translocation, where a part of chromosome 21 attaches to another chromosome. This is the only form of Down syndrome which may be inherited from a parent.

Complications arising from a Down syndrome diagnosis

Down syndrome is not fatal in and of itself. However, the condition can cause a wide range of health complications, and some of these complications can prove fatal. They include:

  • Congenital heart defects that may require surgery to fix
  • Risk of spinal cord injury from a misalignment of the vertebrae and overextension of the neck
  • Gastrointestinal problems ranging from heartburn to abnormalities of the trachea, esophagus, intestines, and anus
  • Higher risk for autoimmune diseases and infections
  • Increased risk of developing leukemia
  • Increased risk of early-onset dementia
  • Seizures
  • Sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Hearing and vision problems

Reasons to file a wrongful birth suit in New Jersey

The state of New Jersey allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks after conception, either at a licensed facility (up to 14 weeks) or at a hospital (up to 24 weeks). Doctors are obligated to inform their patients of this right and perform prenatal screening at an early enough time to allow the woman to make the decision whether or not to have the child. Unfortunately, some women are prevented from making an informed decision because their medical provider:

  • Failed to inform patients of their rights
  • Performed the screening test incorrectly
  • Failed to perform prenatal screening at all
  • Withheld screening results
  • Misread screening results

These can all be construed as acts of medical negligence. As such, under the law you have the right to seek compensation if you can prove that an act of medical negligence denied you the ability to make an informed decision. The associated costs of raising a child with Down syndrome, or with any kind of genetic disorder or birth defect, can be significant, and can last a lifetime.

Furthermore, people with Down syndrome have a much longer life expectancy than people with other types of genetic disorders or birth defects. It is entirely conceivable that your child will outlive you, but still need some level of care and medical assistance for the rest of his or her life.

A successful wrongful birth claim can help you provide for your child for the rest of his or her lifetime. We know that you love your child. Wrongful birth suits are not about that. These claims are about an act of medical malpractice that may have forced you into a direction you may not have chosen to take, based on what was best for your family. They are about protecting your family, both now and in the future.

If your child was diagnosed with Down syndrome, you can help protect him or her

Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP is a premier New Jersey medical malpractice law firm. Our NJ wrongful birth lawyers have successfully represented clients whose children were diagnosed with Down syndrome. With offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, our lawyers advise and represent parents throughout the state. Please call 732-777-0100, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.