Parents sue hospital over wrong diagnosis of Down syndrome

Parents sue hospital over wrong diagnosis of Down syndrome

PORTLAND, Ore. – Doctors at Legacy Health told a local couple their unborn baby did not have Down syndrome, but now the hospital is facing a multimillion dollar lawsuit after the couple said they based a life-changing decision on wrong results.

The case is currently being heard in a Multnomah County courtroom.

According to court documents, the couple's daughter is now four years old and does have Down syndrome, something, the parents say, will impact all of them for the rest of their lives. The girl's parents are suing the hospital for $7 million, saying that's the cost of a lifetime of care.

The parents say doctors “repeatedly advised” them that a test of their unborn baby "definitely ruled out Down syndrome" and even told them indicators that said otherwise were "not reliable."

Based on those results the couple chose to continue the pregnancy and now call the doctors "negligent in their performance, analysis and reporting" of the test results.

The case brings up broader questions about genetic testing.

Professor of biomedical ethics Patricia Backlar said she believes curiosity is a good thing and genetic testing is helpful.

"If they want to have prenatal testing, it means they have some worries or the clinician has some worries," she said. "You want to make sure you're prepared as well as you can be in case something is awry."

But she said, like anything, errors happen.

"Not doing harm is of great importance to most clinicians, because that's why they have gone into the profession," she said. "The reading of some of these tests can be complex."

And so are the moral questions surrounding this type of decision.

"We understand much more about early education for these children and how to help them in the world," Backlar said.

The Northwest Down Syndrome Association said regardless of parents' final decisions, they usually deserve more information than they're getting now.

"What life is like for having a child with Down syndrome at the same time there's a huge increase in testing but no huge increase in good information on what life can be like," said Angela Jarvis-Holland.

The parents of the child did not want to comment, because they're worried about the backlash they could get over such a controversial topic. Legacy Health will also not comment until the trial is over.