Failure to Diagnose Tay-Sachs Disease

NJ Malpractice Lawyers Handling Claims of Misdiagnosis of Tay-Sachs Disease

Representing New Jersey families in wrongful birth cases involving genetic disorders

If you have a family history of Tay-Sachs disease, genetic testing and genetic counseling can give you the choice of not passing this devastating condition on to your children. Unfortunately, some parents aren’t given the information they need to make an informed decision. In this case, the family may be entitled to compensation for wrongful birth. At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP, we help New Jersey families seek the compensation they need to protect their children’s lives and futures.

What is Tay-Sachs disease?

Tay-Sachs disease is a rare disorder that occurs most frequently among people of Eastern European Jewish ancestry, French Canadians, Louisiana Cajun, and Pennsylvania Dutch. The disease is caused by the lack of an enzyme called hexosaminidase-A (Hex-A), which helps break down lipids in the body. Without Hex-A, those lipids can accumulate in the nerves, and very specifically, in the nerve cells of the brain. It progressively destroys the nervous system, and it is fatal. Most children with Tay-Sachs will not survive past the age of 5.

Diagnosing Tay-Sachs disease

The most obvious signs of Tay-Sachs disease in children involve loss of motor skills, hearing loss, vision loss, and muscle weakness. Some children will have seizures. Others may develop “cherry-red” spots in their eyes. Eventually, the child will become blind and paralyzed.

There is also an adult form of the disease (Late-Onset Tay Sachs) which causes intellectual and neurological impairment, but scientists are still learning why some people can carry the gene without suffering for years.

If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms, a blood test can be done to see if he or she has Tay-Sachs. If your child is diagnosed, there are medications and therapies that will keep the illness at bay, but not forever, and not for long. Tay-Sachs will eventually prove fatal. There is no cure.

Genetic testing for the Tay-Sachs mutation

Women who are pregnant should undergo prenatal screening as part of their routine care. DNA-based carrier testing can identify if you carry the gene mutation (or if your partner does) around the 11th week of the pregnancy. If both parents are carriers of the disease, it is passed from parents to child. The key to preventing Tay-Sachs is to have genetic testing and counseling prior to conception. If the woman is already pregnant, the testing must be performed without delay. Failure to inform the patient about this test, or failure to perform this test, can be construed as an act of malpractice – especially if you have a family history of Tay-Sachs, or belong to one of the high-risk groups.

Your rights under New Jersey law

In New Jersey, a woman may terminate a pregnancy for any reason, up to the first 24 weeks after conception. Doctors are required to inform their patients of this right. They are also required to inform patients of any options they might have when it comes to blood tests and genetic screening, so that their patients can make an informed decision whether to proceed with the pregnancy. If the doctor fails to do this, a patient may be able to bring a claim for wrongful birth because the doctor was negligent in his or her duties.

Other actions that could lead to a wrongful birth claim include:

  • Failing to take an accurate family and/or medical history
  • Failing to order the tests
  • Misreading the tests
  • Testing errors made by other medical professionals

These are all acts of medical negligence. A successful claim can ensure that your child is protected for the rest of his or her natural life. We know that you love your child. By filing for wrongful birth, you are holding the doctors to account for their errors, and helping to guarantee that these acts are not committed again.

Learn more about your options if your child was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs

The New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP understand the medicine and the case law related to wrongful birth of a child with Tay-Sachs disease. Our entire professional staff provides compassionate and responsive service to parents, and aggressive representation in litigation. Please call 732-777-0100, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Red Bank, Toms River, or Edison.