FILED IN: Health

Portland couple wins 'wrongful birth' lawsuit

Child born with Down syndrome even though tests indicated no chromosomal abnormality

Ariel and Deborah Levy were awarded almost $3 million in their ‘wrongful birth’ lawsuit against Legacy Health System in Portland, Oregon. The Levys sued Legacy Health System because their daughter, Kalanit, was born with Down Syndrome despite Legacy medical tests to the contrary.

Legacy Health loses 'wrongful birth' suit. Photo via Wiki Commons.

The Levys first learned that they were pregnant with Kalanit in November of 2006, when Deborah was 34. Because of Deborah’s age, the Levys were concerned that the child would have a genetic disorder and pursued genetic testing.

The Oregonian reports that Dr. Thomas Jenkins, a Legacy doctor, performed a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test when Deborah was 13-weeks pregnant. During this test, a small amount of tissue from Deborah’s womb was analyzed. The results indicated that the baby had no chromosomal abnormalities.

Subsequent ultrasounds showed abnormalities that may indicate Down syndrome. The Levys were continually reassured that their child did not have Down syndrome. However, about a week after Kalanit’s birth, the family learned that she indeed did have Down syndrome.

The lawsuit claimed that Dr. Jenkins did not test tissue from the baby but instead tested tissue from Deborah, giving an inaccurate result. Despite abnormal results on further ultrasounds, the family was never advised to have an amniocentesis. The couple claim that had they received accurate results from the test, they would have aborted the pregnancy.

The jury found Legacy to be negligent. The Levys were awarded $2.9 million dollars to pay for the extra care that Kalanit will need. According to experts, Kalanit is not expected to be able to live on her own.

David K. Miller, the Levys’ attorney, has expressed that this lawsuit was not about whether or not the pregnancy would have been aborted but about the Levys’ love for Kalanit. In a statement to KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Miller explains, “These are parents who love this little girl very, very much. Their mission since the beginning was to provide for her and that’s what this is all about.”

In an MSNBC article, bioethicist Dr. Art Caplan states that ‘wrongful birth’ suits are rare as tests are very accurate with very few errors. Additionally, parents wrestle with the idea that the children will feel unwanted or they will be judged by peers.

Robert Keating, Legacy’s attorney, contends that the test results were accurate because Kalanit has a mosaic form of Down Syndrome where a significant number of her cells do not contain the chromosomal abnormality.