Negligence in Prenatal TestingBy Gabriel Levin on November 15th, 2016
One of the first steps you will take when you find out you are having a baby is to call your doctor and set an appointment. Most women understand that adequate prenatal care is essential to keep you and your baby healthy. You should be able to trust that your doctor knows how to provide such prenatal care and will do everything in their power to detect and address any possible complications to keep your pregnancy as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, many parents learn the hard way that medical professionals can make serious errors or misjudgments in the course of prenatal care that can lead to complications or injuries to your baby that would have otherwise been preventable.
One common area for mistakes in prenatal care involves prenatal testing. The following is some additional information regarding medical negligence and prenatal testing.
Expectations for Prenatal Testing
Women who are pregnant may already have medical conditions or may develop certain conditions during pregnancy that can have a negative effect on her and her child. A doctor providing prenatal care should know how to perform a full evaluation of a patient to determine whether any concerns or risks may exist due to medical conditions. Such conditions that should be identified and properly managed include:
- Gestational diabetes
- High levels of bilirubin
Aside from the health of the mother, medical professionals should test for potential birth defects of the fetus in many situations. Such birth defects can be life-threatening or severely debilitating after a child’s birth. Some common birth defects that may be tested for include:
- Spina bifida1
- Down syndrome
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sickle cell disease
- Any other condition that can cause suffering or threaten a child’s life
In some situations, when parents learn that the fetus has an untreatable, debilitating, and painful birth defect, the parents may make the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. This decision can prevent their child from suffering and facing a painful life of struggles. If parents choose to proceed with the pregnancy, knowing about any birth defects can help not only prepare for a necessary C-section, for any immediate treatment the baby may need after birth, and for any necessities for caring for a child with that particular defect. In either case, if parents do not receive the information they should about birth defects, devastating results can happen.
When Can You Hold a Doctor Liable for Testing Errors?
Not every doctor who makes an error regarding prenatal testing will be held liable for their errors. Honest mistakes do not rise to the level of medical negligence and you must prove that a doctor was negligent in order to recover financially from that doctor. Negligence only occurs when the doctor’s actions fell below the required standard of care for similar doctors in that position.
Certain errors regarding prenatal testing will rise to the level of negligence, including not performing prenatal tests when certain risk factors exist in a pregnancy. Some risk factors may include:
- The pregnant woman is older than 35
- There have been previous pregnancies involving low or high birth weight, birth defects, or stillbirths
- The pregnant woman is clinically obese
- The pregnant woman has high blood pressure
- There is a history in the family of birth defects such as Down syndrome
- There is a family history of heart disease or diabetes
A doctor should recognize when any risk factors are present and, if the doctor fails to perform proper prenatal tests, the doctor may be found negligent. A doctor may also be negligent if they failed to properly read the results of prenatal tests or if the doctor fails to inform patients of critical test results. If you believe any of these negligent acts occurred, you may have the right to file a claim for medical malpractice.
Through a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to recover for the following damages and more:
- Costs of medical treatment that could have been prevented;
- Pain and suffering of your child;
- Long-term costs of caring for a child with a birth defect;
- Wrongful death if your child did not survive;
- Wrongful birth, which is not allowed in every state but is allowed under Pennsylvania law.2
Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney as Soon as Possible
If your doctor made a serious error during your prenatal care that led to a preventable injury or the tragic death of your baby, you should call a dedicated birth injury lawyer in Philadelphia to discuss your rights. Please call The Levin Firm at 215-825-5183 for a free consultation today.