What Is a Wrongful Birth Lawsuit?

3 min read

a pregnant woman sits outside

Wrongful birth is a type of legal action that some families can take after a child is born with cerebral palsy or other birth defects. These lawsuits claim that doctors failed to properly warn families that the child would have a disability before the birth. Wrongful birth lawsuits can help families afford care for their children.

What Is Wrongful Birth?

The term ‘wrongful birth’ can be tricky to understand at first. A wrongful birth lawsuit does not necessarily mean expectant parents would have terminated a pregnancy. Instead, these lawsuits claim that a doctor’s error prevented the family from understanding that their child would be born with severe health problems.

In the United States, medical professionals must inform patients about known risks or complications associated with pregnancy. This includes problems with both the mother and developing fetus. When doctors fail to do so, they need to be held accountable.

Wrongful birth lawsuits can force these doctors to pay financial aid to affected families. This can help the family afford the costs that come with caring for a severely disabled child and get a sense of closure.

Wrongful Birth, Birth Injury, and Birth Defects

Wrongful birth is not the same thing as a birth injury or defect.

  • Birth injuries happen when an otherwise healthy baby is injured just before, during, or shortly after the birth process due to negligence. Babies may suffer from physical injuries, harmful infections, and conditions like cerebral palsy.
  • Birth defects result from abnormalities due to genetic conditions or other factors. They are not associated with labor and delivery complications. Some birth defects include spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and Down syndrome.

Parents affected by severe birth injuries and defects can also take legal action. Birth injury lawsuits have awarded millions of dollars in some cases. Wrongful birth claims can also be filed if a child was born with a severe birth defect.

Why Parents File Wrongful Birth Lawsuits

Parents of children with severe health problems may file wrongful birth lawsuits to get much-needed compensation. Conditions like cerebral palsy can be extremely expensive to treat, and taking legal action allows families to afford the best health care possible.

Compensation from a wrongful birth lawsuit can be used for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment
  • Home modifications to fit the child’s needs
  • Different types of therapy
  • Other costs

Wrongful birth lawsuits also allow families to hold irresponsible doctors accountable. Remember, doctors have years of training specifically to keep their patients safe. If they failed to diagnose serious health problems in a fetus, they may deserve to pay for that child’s medical treatment after it is born.

Examples of Wrongful Birth Cases

Wrongful births can occur when medical providers:

  • Fail to perform appropriate tests
  • Offer an incorrect diagnosis or inaccurate information
  • Neglect to tell parents about a birth defect or genetic conditions

For instance, suppose a doctor neglects to order a maternal serum screening during the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy, and the ultrasound technician fails to see a lesion on the fetus’s back. The baby is then born with spina bifida, a congenital defect that causes paralysis, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and hydrocephalus.

Screening Tests and Wrongful Birth

Modern technology allows doctors to diagnose medical conditions before the baby is born or even before a woman becomes pregnant. Most notably, screening tests are conducted during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy to determine if a problem is present.

Commonly used screening tests include:

  • Blood tests
  • Maternal serum screenings
  • Ultrasounds

If a suspicious finding is identified, diagnostic tests are ordered. High-resolution ultrasound, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), and amniocentesis are standard tests used to confirm a diagnosis.

Of course, if a doctor fails to catch a health problem or deformity through the screening tests, it may be the grounds for a wrongful birth lawsuit.

Preventing a Wrongful Birth

The best way to prevent a wrongful birth is to stay informed throughout your pregnancy. Always make sure your doctors will take the time to answer any questions and concerns you have. You can also seek out a second opinion or request additional tests to be safe.

While there’s no way to completely prevent all birth injuries or defects, making sure you have the best health care available can put your mind at ease.

Further, if you believe your child’s birth injury or defect stems from medical negligence, you may want to consider legal action. Filing a lawsuit does not mean you love your child any less — it simply means a doctor prevented you from making an informed decision about your pregnancy.

Legal action can allow you to afford vital health care that your child deserves. For more information about filing a lawsuit for cerebral palsy or other conditions, get a free case review today.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosis of Birth Defects. (2020, October 27). Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/diagnosis.html
  2. National Institutes of Health. What are the types of birth defects? (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/birthdefects/conditioninfo/types
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn about Specific Birth Defects. (2020, October 23). Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/types.html
  4. Bernard, K. (2020, September 15). Kansas couple asks state supreme court to void 2013 law barring wrongful birth lawsuits. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article245758720.html