Most parents are excited and joyful when they find out they are expecting a baby, but many new parents worry that their baby may be born with some abnormality or disease condition. Thus, the clichéd image of the parents counting their newborns’ toes and fingers. Unfortunately, while digital deformities can and do rarely occur, some abnormalities are much more common and can be far more challenging. One of these abnormalities is Down syndrome.
Though there are now many types of prenatal screening and testing that can help predict Down syndrome and other disorders, providing expectant parents with options early in the pregnancy, a certain number of at-risk parents who have been screened and tested are misinformed. In some cases, prenatal tests are not recommended although they should be; in others, tests are not administered properly or tests are misread or misreported. If you have, in spite of taking all possible precautions, given birth to a baby with Down syndrome, you may be able to sue your obstetrician and/or the prenatal testing agency, for wrongful birth. At Nagel Rice LLP we have a history of fighting and winning such cases so that parents receive the necessary financial support to provide for their special needs child.
Our well-known medical malpractice firm, with offices in Manhattan and New Jersey, has a well-earned reputation for empathy as well as successful litigation. Our highly skilled medical malpractice attorneys are deeply compassionate about these sensitive cases. We know how deeply parents of Down syndrome children love their offspring and how painful the words “wrongful birth” are to hear. We also realize that these offspring will have special needs throughout their lives and that paying for their healthcare, education, and therapy will be extremely expensive. We are dedicated to fighting, through agile negotiation and, if necessary, through aggressive litigation, to win you the damages you deserve to meet the financial challenges you face.
One out of every 700 babies is born with Down syndrome. These babies are found in all races and ethnic groups though, for unknown reasons, Down syndrome births occur more rarely among African-Americans. Many factors may feature in the creation of a baby with Down syndrome. The chromosomal abnormality (characterized by the presence of an extra copy of genetic material on the 21st chromosome) may be affected by genetic background, environmental factors and pure chance.
One known risk factor for Down syndrome is the age of the mother. While a 25-year-old mother has only a one in 1200 risk of having a child with Down syndrome, a woman over 35 has a one in 300 risk factor, and in a woman over 49, the risk jumps to 1 in 10. With women waiting longer to have children, scientists fear there may be an upturn in Down syndrome births in the coming years.
What Are the Characteristics of Down Syndrome?
Children with Down syndrome are easy to recognize, but their intelligence levels and behavior patterns may vary greatly. Down syndrome children have mild to moderate cognitive impairment, and are slow in meeting physical, as well as mental, milestones. Physical characteristics include:
- Flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
- Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
- A short neck
- Small ears
- A tongue that tends to protrude
- Poor muscle tone and/or loose joints
- Short stature
In addition to a distinctive appearance, Down syndrome children are prone to many physical problems as children and adults. They also have a shortened life span — about 60 years of age.
Physical Problems Associated with Down Syndrome
Physical problems that may plague those with Down syndrome include:
- Sleep apnea
- Ear infections
- Eye diseases
- Hearing and visual problems
- Heart defects (from birth)
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Celiac disease
- Increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease after 50
Prenatal Tests for Down Syndrome
While screening tests for Down syndrome are not definitive, they can help parents decide whether to undergo more invasive testing to clarify their risk.
Screenings for Down syndrome include:
- Blood test for pregnancy hormones — abnormal levels may indicate a problem
- Ultrasound test for excess fluid at the back of the fetus’s neck
- Integrated screening tests, one during each of the first two trimesters
- Quad screen measures four pregnancy-related substances during the second trimester
Prenatal Testing may be done, after parents consult with their doctor, if the results of these screening tests indicate a probability of Down syndrome. These tests include more invasive procedures, such as:
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) which examines cells taken from the placenta
- Amniocentesis which involves extraction and examination of amniotic fluid
- Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS)
- Preimplantation genetic diagnosis for parents undergoing in vitro fertilization
Reliability of Prenatal Tests
If the blood test and ultrasound scan are administered between 10 and 13 weeks, in combination they will detect about 90 percent of fetuses affected with Down syndrome. If the blood test alone is administered between 15 and 20 weeks, it will detect 75 percent of affected fetuses. In general, screening procedures do sometimes present false negatives and false positives which is why many parents opt to go on to more invasive tests.
Do you have cause to file a wrongful birth lawsuit?
It will cost you nothing to consult with the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Nagel Rice to find out whether you should file a lawsuit. Our attorneys not only have outstanding credentials but have a remarkable history of winning hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. We are well-equipped to evaluate your medical records, interview all involved parties, and bring in medical and genetic experts to testify. We know the ins and outs of medical malpractice law and will be able to determine if you have a viable case of wrongful birth. If so, you can be assured that we will fight with strength and determination to win you damages for:
- Medical costs, now and in the future
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
- Specialized education
- Trained child care
- Adult care or placement if and when it becomes necessary
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
Nagel Rice Is Here To Help You and Your Family
Raising a child is almost always more difficult and complicated than parents expect. This is especially true for parents of a child with Down syndrome, no matter how lovable and sweet that child may be. If you have been misled because of the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare professional, contact the capable, caring medical malpractice attorneys at Nagel Rice. We will see you through and never charge you attorney fees until we win you the damages you are entitled to.