Couple sues health agencies for lack of diagnosis

A Portland couple is suing an Oregon health university and a hospital, contending the medical entities failed to diagnose a genetic disorder in their daughter during prenatal testing.

Through the civil litigation, the couple is seeking $6.25 million. The mother and father say they would have aborted the pregnancy had they known their daughter would be diagnosed a few days after her birth with Charge syndrome. This condition occurs one in every 10,000 births and often causes difficulty with breathing and swallowing, heart defects, and flawed hearing and sight. Patients who suffer from Charge syndrome often need frequent hospitalization, multiple surgeries and prolonged therapy.

In their lawsuit, the girl's parents are asking for $2 million to pay for her care, prescriptions, education and the additional costs associated with raising a disabled child which include $3 million for medical, living and therapy expenses she will incur after adulthood, $250,000 for lost wages for the mother and $1 million for emotional distress and other mental issues.

The mother underwent amniocentesis and other medical tests in January 2010, and the doctors who read the results told them their child likely would not suffer from major medical problems. Based on that assurance, they went on with their pregnancy, according to documents filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Their case could prove successful in court because of a precedent already set in their county. In March, a couple won a $2.9 million judgment from a Multnomah County jury following a 10-day trial. The jury found that the doctors and genetic specialists in a health system erred when then conducted a prenatal test chorionic villus sampling. Doctors told the couple their daughter was healthy, but she was diagnosed with Down syndrome after her birth in 2007.

While some criticized the couple for seeking money, others applauded them for pursuing the funds to properly care for their daughter, who requires speech and physical therapy.

Source: The Oregonian, "Portland parents sue OHSU, Kaiser Permanente for $6.25 million; suit claims prenatal tests missed baby's genetic disorder," Aimee Green, May 30, 2012

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