A New York Appeals Court ruling is a victory for two couples who filed a wrongful birth claim after their children were born with “Fragile X” – a rare chromosomal abnormality that can cause significant injuries and intellectual disabilities. Wrongful birth is a hotly debated area of the law, and reactions to the Appeals Court’s decision seem to be varied.
At Brown & Brothers, we help clients with cases of all shapes and sizes. We are not afraid to tackle complicated legal matters, and have experience with wrongful birth law. Read on to learn more about our wrongful birth lawsuit example, how Fragile X Syndrome affects children, and what you can do to protect your legal rights.
Wrongful Birth Lawsuit Information
Born in 2009, the Fragile X abnormality was not discovered until the two infants in this case were a few months old. It was two years later when the parents sued their fertility doctor and the clinic he operated after the defect was traced back to the donated eggs.
The couples had been told that genetic testing was completed, but argue that the clinic failed to screen women donating eggs for Fragile X and other genetic abnormalities. After the children were born, the donors of the eggs were tested, and were both found to be carriers of Fragile X. The lawsuit seeks damages including the expenses of raising a child with disabilities, but an amount has not been established.
After filing the lawsuit, defendants claimed that the statute of limitations had begun at the time of in vitro fertilization. Both couples argued that the legal clock should begin ticking at the time of birth, or when the Fragile X abnormality was discovered. The case went to New York’s highest court, which ruled to allow the case to proceed.
In a 5-1 decision, the Appeals Court ruled that the statute of limitations for this case (and potentially other similar cases in the future) should begin from the date of birth, and not the date of in vitro fertilization. The Chief Judge stated that the circumstances in this case “preclude the parents from bringing the lawsuit until the child is born and thus the statute of limitations must run from the date of birth”. The court ruled that prior to the children being born alive, there was no grounds for a lawsuit, so the statute of limitations should not begin before that time.
Case Highlights Complicated Nature of Wrongful Birth Claims
Wrongful birth claims are extremely complicated. The root of a wrongful birth claim is the theory that had parents been informed that their child would be born with a genetic abnormality like Fragile X, that they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy. When the pregnancy begins with in vitro fertilization, there are additional factors to consider, such as the actions of the doctor and his or her clinical staff during the process of screening egg donors, informing parents, etc. In the past, some wrongful birth claims have been made after parents were given the wrong information or test results, which impacted their decision-making.
There are many tests that doctors can perform to determine if there are genetic mutations or abnormalities in an egg, infant, or the mother. Healthcare providers must be diligent in performing these tests as appropriate and communicating results to parents. Further, they must fully disclose their findings and any options to prevent problems, or promote the best outcome possible.
When doctors fail to screen eggs or perform appropriate or required tests, they may be considered negligent if their actions led to the harm of the mother and/or child, or if their actions (or lack thereof) affected the parents’ ability to make informed decisions.
Information about Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X Syndrome is uncommon statistically, yet it is the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that only one in every 4,000 to 5,000 males, and one in every 6,000 to 8,000 females are born with the abnormality.
Most often, parents are the first to notice signs of Fragile X, such as missed developmental milestones, behavioral problems, or attention problems. Depending on the mutation and related disorders, the symptoms may be more pronounced, or may change as the child ages. Conditions caused by Fragile X, or occurring concurrently, often include:
- Developmental delays
- Attention problems
Individuals born with Fragile X often experience a lifetime of difficulties with learning, attention, and socialization. The CDC has noted that about half of all families managing care of someone with Fragile X report that the disorder caused a significant financial burden. Parents often find themselves with a large financial burden related to healthcare, therapies, home modifications, requirement to reduce hours or cease working, in-home care, and other medical costs.
Find out More about Wrongful Birth and Your Rights
Because wrongful birth is such a complicated and heavily controversial area of the law, if you have questions about wrongful birth, lawsuits, or how to get help, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our attorneys. Our team of attorneys manage cases involving medical malpractice or negligence, medical errors, birth injuries, and wrongful birth. To schedule a free review of your case, or to get answers to your questions, fill out our online form.