After years of litigation over whether birth defects such as cerebral palsy could be based on a wrongful birth claim, an Iowa jury has ordered Fort Madison Community Hospital and others to pay a family over $14 million in damages.
The case revolved around a child born with severe disabilities after physicians failed to inform the parents of congenital defects. The parents claimed that had they known of the issue they would have terminated the
Cerebral palsy is often the subject of medical malpractice and birth injury lawsuits, but this is the first instance in which a wrongful birth claim has been argued. The case only moved forward after the Iowa Supreme Court agreed that it was a legitimate claim, and decided that a medical negligence action could be brought based on failure to inform of prenatal test results.
Radiologists Were Aware of Risk of Cerebral Palsy But Did Not Inform Parents
According to the evidence presented at trial, the child’s high risk for cerebral palsy and other birth defects first became evident during a 22-week ultrasound of the fetus. The radiologist’s report on the ultrasound indicated head abnormalities and recommended follow up, but the parents were never notified of the abnormalities — in fact, they were told that the baby’s development was fine. The child, who is now five years old, was born with severe cognitive defects and is still unable to speak or walk.
In addition to cerebral palsy, the child has been diagnosed with seizure disorder, cortical visual impairment, microcephaly and intellectual disability. The parents blame the lack of notification for the wrongful birth, saying they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy had they know of the pain and suffering the child would endure, as well as the extraordinary costs they would incur in raising and caring for him. The total judgment came to $14,504,790 awarded to the family, with 65 percent of the blame assessed against the hospital and its physician and 35 percent against the radiology practice and its physician.