Genetic Testing and Wrongful Birth Claims Medical Malpractice

The availability of genetic testing to identify a host of medical conditions has left parents and the courts with difficult decisions. A couple in Montana is suing their health care provider for wrongful birth based on the failure to perform the genetic test that would have informed them that their daughter would have cystic fibrosis at birth. The couple claims that they would have ended the pregnancy if they had known about the life-threatening lung disease in advance.

The couple’s health care providers did test for chromosomal abnormalities, but failed to do the genetic testing for cystic fibrosis. The condition is passed down through families and so is often tested for when a family history indicates the possibility of its presence. The disease causes the body to produce sticky mucous that clogs the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body. It is the most common potentially-fatal, inherited disorder among Caucasians according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The life expectancy of a person with cystic fibrosis is roughly 37. There is no cure for the condition. The couple is seeking compensation for medical costs and emotional distress. The District Court Judge denied the dismissal based on the mother’s lost right to make a decision about terminating her pregnancy. The genetic testing would have allowed the couple to make a fully-informed decision about whether to proceed given the severity of the health condition affecting their daughter.