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Pediatric Malpractice May Also Involve Genetic Counseling

Mellino Law Firm

This may come as a surprise to some people. Those who do genetic counseling may be subject to pediatric malpractice lawsuits.

This reported case is extremely interesting in the precedent it may set. It involved a settlement for $7 million; the result of a malpractice lawsuit against four medical professionals, including a genetic counselor. The gist of the case is that the wife did not get proper prenatal genetic counseling before having her baby. As a result, the child was born with a rare genetic syndrome referred to as “Cri-du-chat.” The plaintiff’s child is now three years old and has severe mental and physical disabilities.

This genetic syndrome is the result of lost or misplaced genetic material from the fifth chromosome, and was discovered in 1963. The name of this disorder is based on the sound that babies and youngster make when crying – similar to a crying cat – hence “Cry of the Cat” or “Cri-du-Chat.” The actual cause of the cry is an abnormal larynx.

These children do not just have an unusual cry, they have a set of distinct facial features, such as the turned down corners of their eyes, varying levels of being mentally handicapped, webbed or fused toes/fingers, small heads, low set ears and small jaws. The cry alone can alert the doctor to the presence of the syndrome, without needing chromosome analysis. While some cri-du-chat children are able to go to school, many more require specialized education and long-term care.

The key argument in this case was that if the chromosomal abnormality been detected earlier, through amniocentesis, the wife could have made an informed decision to abort her child. The defendants denied liability, pointing out that the hospital had offered amniocentesis, but that it was declined. The plaintiffs said they were not told they could have the procedure. The upshot of the story is that the judge approved a $7 million settlement, with $4 million to be placed into a trust for the child’s future care and medical treatments.

Cases like this are never easy, particularly when they involve a newborn child. The parents were hoping for a full term and healthy baby. It was their opinion that they did not receive the right kind of genetic counseling to avert a situation such as this. In other words, that the medical professionals looking after them were negligent in their advice, by not informing the wife she had the option to undergo amniocentesis to check for genetic abnormalities.

Pediatric medical malpractice? The court certainly thought so, and the hospital and the various parties to the case settled on the basis of the facts of the case. While it is not common to run across pediatric malpractice, it does happen, and usually far more often than we would like. Aside from the involvement of the child, there is also the question whether or not the wife was subject to medical malpractice. There is certainly a case to be made for that as well, with a focus on her not receiving enough information or being offered a vital test to make an informed choice about her medical care.

For those in tricky and difficult situations like this one, make your first phone call to a Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer and ask for advice. The first consultation is free, and you can find out whether or not you do have a case worth pursuing. It is important to know that not all cases of a bad outcome with a doctor, or other medical professional, are the result of medical malpractice. The Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer will explain the difference to you during your conversation.

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