Receiving proper medical care when planning to have a child is very important. One reason for this is that properly trained medical professionals help mothers and fathers to understand and identify genetic risks that may result in a life of suffering for a child and his/her parents. While doctors and nurses are not the cause of the genetic disease, they play a vital role in helping a couple have a happy and healthy baby, free from incurable diseases. When a medical professional fails to properly identify and discover prenatal genetic diseases, they have most likely committed medical malpractice. This type of medical negligence is called wrongful birth and involves the birth of a child who suffers from genetic defects that could have been discovered during the pregnancy. If your family has a child that suffers from a genetic disorder such as Canavan Disease, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Nagel Rice LLP offers a free consultation to allow us to evaluate your case and give the legal guidance you need.
One type of genetic disease for which your doctor and staff should be conscious of is Canavan disease. Canavan disease is a genetic disease that, while possible in the population at large, hits Jews disproportionately. In the general population, the incident rate is roughly 1:100,000 births. But amongst Ashkenazi Jews, the incident rate is as low as 1:6,400. Approximately 1 in every 40 Ashkenazi Jews are carriers of the disease.
Canavan disease affects the neurons of the brain. Specifically, the disease results when a child lacks a critical enzyme to process chemicals that arise in the brain. Typically, an individual has two functional copies of the enzyme. However, some people have only one functional copy; these individuals are carriers of the disease. If two individuals with only one functional copy have a child, there is a chance that the child will inherit no functioning copies of the enzyme. In those instances, the child lacks the ability to properly develop parts of their brain and will suffer terrible consequences.
While there are two types of Canavan disease, one is much more common, and unfortunately more severe. Infantile Canavan disease is the most common, with symptoms arising between 3 and 6 months of age. The symptoms include mental disability, loss of previously acquired motor skills, difficulty feeding, an enlarged head, and abnormal muscle control. In some cases, the baby may be paralyzed, blind or suffer from seizures. Canavan disease often leads to an early death. While some individuals suffering from the disease live into adolescence and adulthood, the majority live short lives, usually only into childhood and typically not beyond the age of 10.
The disease is presently incurable. There is also no standardized protocol for treatment. The best that can be done for victims of this disease is to treat the symptoms and soothe any pain the child may have. Physical therapy may help with physical control and speech therapy may help with communication difficulties. Prescription medication may help with the seizures and often feeding tubes or other devices are required to aid in getting adequate nutrition and hydration.
Genetic Testing During Pregnancy
Because Canavan disease is so devastating and only inheritable if both parents are carriers, genetic testing has been developed to identify adult carriers. In such cases, termination of the pregnancy is an alternative to the lifetime of pain and suffering the child will inevitably suffer.
Since there are reliable genetic tests to determine the existence of the mutation in each parent as well as the fetus before birth, your OB/GYN should conduct testing of the parents at the time of conception or when the pregnancy is discovered to determine if there is a risk that the unborn child may suffer from Canavan. Your doctor should be alert to this risk even if you are not aware you are a carrier.
If it is possible that your child could suffer from Canavan because both parents are carriers, the baby should be tested as early on as possible. This will allow the parents and the medical professionals to make informed decisions about whether to terminate the pregnancy. Simply put, modern genetic testing allows you to know if your child will suffer from the disease before birth. Your doctor should help you uncover this information so that you can decide, knowing the life of suffering your child might endure, whether to carry the baby to term.
How Can We Help?
Dealing with the lifelong consequences of Canavan disease is immeasurable. In terms of costly medical treatments, the impact of the treatments that will be required to alleviate the suffering of your child is quite high. Not to mention the pain and suffering that you and your child will endure at every stage in life, given the severe limitations and restrictions on their daily activities. In a very direct way, your doctor’s failure to make adequate recommendations about genetic testing for both you, your partner and your child, led to a life of suffering for every member of the family.
When you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the negligence of another, the law entitles you to compensation for the harm you have suffered. As your legal representatives, we will put all our efforts into winning you both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages will reimburse you for the money you have spent or lost due to the injury. In cases of Canavan, these damages will include:
- Medical and therapeutic costs for your child
- Lost income (past and future) due to having to care for your child
- Nursing and other care for your child
The law also recognizes that the impact of having a child born with Canavan is not purely financial. Some of the most devastating consequences are in the intangible ones. Non-Economic Damages will cover intangibles not easily assigned a monetary value, such as:
- Your child’s pain and suffering
- Your emotional distress at having such a sick child
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Contact Our New Jersey Canavan Disease Attorney
The advances in medical and genetic knowledge now allow parents to make informed decisions about their child’s future health before birth. The smart and dedicated wrongful birth attorneys at Nagel Rice can assist you in deciding what steps to take if your child was born with a discoverable genetic defect. Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation. We pride ourselves on treating every client with compassion and care while fighting for the significant damages you are entitled to.