Genetic Testing and Birth Defects

Doctors and other medical professionals use genetic testing to identify the risks of birth defects. The tests give important information to prospective parents and help them to decide how they to plan and proceed with a pregnancy.

However, like all aspects of medicine, genetic testing is open to error. Medical professionals can cause great harm when they negligently:

  • Advise patients about genetic testing
  • Conduct screening and diagnostic tests
  • Interpret and report test results
  • Recommend further action based on test results.

If you are the parents of a child who was born with birth defects, you have the right to raise questions about how genetic testing was handled both before and during the mother’s pregnancy. You may be dealing with the consequences of negligent actions and decisions by medical professionals whom you trusted.

The experienced medical malpractice lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., are available to review your case. We have an extensive background in cases which involve birth injuries and other complex issues. We can put that knowledge to work for you and help you to understand your legal rights and options.

We work with families in Chicago, Waukegan and throughout Illinois. Our consultations are always free and confidential. Contact us today to learn more.

Our Experience with Complex Birth Injury Cases

Genetic testing malpractice cases are like other types of birth injury cases in many ways. You must:

  • Identify whether a medical professional failed to meet the relevant standard of care
  • Establish a causal link between the medical error and the harm you and your child have suffered
  • Determine the full extent of your physical, emotional and financial harm.

However, these cases can also be highly unique and complex. For instance, you must show how tests could have been ordered, treatment plans undertaken and other steps pursued – including ending a pregnancy – if the genetic tests had been properly handled. You must also show the impact of the genetic testing error on you and your child’s life.

You should look for a lawyer to handle your genetic testing malpractice case who has:

  • Strong legal skills to obtain information about the genetic tests
  • Sophisticated understanding about testing for genetic disorders
  • The ability to consult with knowledgeable medical experts in fields such as obstetrics, lab testing, genetic counseling, pediatrics and life care planning.

It would benefit you to work with Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. We have experience with highly technical, challenging cases such as:

The case involved alleged obstetric and neonatal negligence that caused a child to suffer permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy. We filed the lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. After we secured a verdict in federal court, which was upheld on appeal, the defendant doctors agreed to a settlement.

The case involved a doctor’s alleged negligent use of a vacuum extractor during a child’s delivery. The child suffered severe brain injury, requiring lifetime care. The settlement is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in Illinois history.

  • $11 Million Illinois Court Verdict

The case involved an infant who was the victim of several medical errors during childbirth. The hospital admitted liability. The six-day trial focused on the child’s life expectancy and the future care the child would require.

We can meet with you at our offices in Chicago or Waukegan, or we can meet at a more convenient location for you and your family. We will go over the specific facts and issues in your case and discuss the steps we can take to pursue justice for you and your child.

How Is Genetic Testing Used Before or During Pregnancy?

A genetic test focuses on chromosomes, which are chemicals inside the nucleus of your body’s cells. Chromosomes carry genetic information. This information can reveal the risk of a child being born with a birth defect that is essentially inherited from one or both parents.

The two main categories of genetic testing are:

  • Screening – Before pregnancy, both prospective parents can be tested to determine if they are “carriers” of a genetic disorder, or a disorder which can be passed to the child. If both parents are carriers, it means the child faces the increased risk of being born with a birth defect. The mother can also be screened early in the pregnancy. Commonly used screening tests include ultrasounds and maternal serum blood tests.
  • Diagnostic – These are more invasive tests than screening and carry a slight risk of causing a miscarriage. The goal is to determine whether the child will, in fact, be born with a birth defect. Commonly used diagnostic tests are chorionic villus sampling (CVS), which tests tissue from the placenta, and amniocentesis, which involves testing amniotic fluid.

When genetic tests are performed before pregnancy, it can help a couple to decide whether to go forward with the pregnancy or, perhaps, to choose other options such as adopting a child or using donated sperm or an egg.

If the couple goes forward with the pregnancy, the tests can provide useful information to the doctor and/or midwife who is overseeing the pregnancy. For instance, the doctor may refer the couple to a genetic counselor and/or suggest additional screening or diagnostic tests.

In this sense, when medical professionals commit errors with genetic testing, it can prevent prospective parents from making informed choices about a pregnancy. The error can also have a cascading effect on the care and treatment provided throughout the pregnancy.

If you believe genetic testing malpractice led to these consequences in your case, you should meet with Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., without delay.

What Birth Defects Can Be Detected Through Genetic Testing?

Genetic disorders are birth defects which are essentially passed on to a child by the parents. When properly ordered, performed and interpreted, genetic testing should provide a solid assessment of that risk.

The birth defects most commonly revealed through genetic testing include:

  • Down syndrome – A child with this condition may suffer from mental retardation and face a heightened risk of heart defects.
  • Patau syndrome – Also called trisomy 13. A child may suffer brain, spinal cord and heart defects, muscle and eye deficiencies or a cleft palate or cleft lip. This is a serious condition. In most cases, a child does not survive past one year.
  • Edwards syndrome – Also called trisomy 18. Like trisomy 18, the developmental issues associated with this condition may be life-threatening for the child.
  • Spina bifida and other neural tube defects – A child with this condition has a spine that is not fully developed. The child may not survive or may need surgery. The long-term effects could include loss of motor control and intellectual disabillty.
  • Cystic fibrosis – A child with this condition may experience frequent lung infections and difficulty with breathing as he or she grows older.
  • Sickle cell anemia – A child with this condition will have red blood cells that are misshapen and break apart, causing a shortage of red blood cells. The child may experience pain, fatigue and frequent infections.
  • Tay-Sachs disease – This condition can cause an excess of fatty proteins in the brain, which can impact a child’s vision, hearing, motor control and mental development.
  • Muscular dystrophy – This is an incurable disease that impacts the development of the child’s muscles, leading to problems with moving and, perhaps, swallowing and breathing difficulties as well.

Depending on the type and severity of a genetic disorder, parents may lose a child or face a lifetime of obtaining specialized care for the child, which can be emotionally draining and financially burdensome.

How Does Medical Malpractice Occur with Genetic Testing?

A few years ago, medical researchers conducted an analysis of medical malpractice claims that involved genetic testing. The study found that doctors were found liable for failing to:

  • Get a sufficient family history – A doctor may recommend a genetic test when parents fall within a certain risk group or when they have a family history of certain disorders. For instance, testing may be important if a couple has a child with an inherited disorder.
  • Recommend the proper tests – A doctor should consider all factors when deciding whether to suggest a particular screening or diagnostic test, including the type of birth defect risks that can be identified through particular tests.
  • Refer the patient to a genetic counselor – Doctors should know their professional limits. If test results or other factors point towards the need for genetic counseling before or during a pregnancy, the doctor has a duty to refer a patient.
  • Correctly and timely interpret test results – A doctor may fail to identify a birth defect risk when analyzing test results or may identify the wrong birth defect, which can impact every medical step that follows.
  • Suggest appropriate “risk mitigation” strategies – For instance, if a screening test points to the risk of a child being born with a genetic disorder, it would be proper, in most cases, for the doctor to suggest a diagnostic test or other measures.
  • Disclose test results – This may be the most egregious type of negligence. Without knowing genetic test results, parents cannot make informed decisions about how to proceed with a pregnancy or decide whether to explore other options.

If genetic testing malpractice occurs, many parties may ultimately be responsible for the harm suffered by the child and parents, including the doctor, midwife, nurse and genetic counselor – as well as the hospital or clinic which employs them.

In some situations, a lab that conducts the actual genetic test may be liable for mistakes that prevent accurate and timely information from getting to a doctor and, in turn, the prospective parents.

What Can You Recover in a Genetic Testing Malpractice Lawsuit?

Illinois courts have long recognized wrongful birth lawsuits. These cases arise when a doctor fails to warn expectant parents about fetal problems, including the risk of the child being born with a genetic disorder.

If parents establish the elements of a wrongful birth claim, the parents should be entitled to recover damages that include all medical expenses and other costs of caring for the child (as a minor and, in some cases, after the child turns age 18 and remains in the parents’ guardianship)

Parents may also assert a claim for their lost income and emotional distress.

How Can Our Lawyers Can Help with Your Birth Defects Case?

When you contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchad P.C., about your genetic testing malpractice case, we will fully assess your situation, explain your rights and options and answer any questions you may have. Additionally, we can:

  • Conduct a thorough investigation – We can review all of the test results, medical records and other evidence in your case. We can also interview those who were involved with the genetic testing and other aspects of the pregnancy.
  • Consult with experts – Because of our firm’s focus on birth injury cases, we know many knowledgeable experts in this field, including genetic counselors and other medical professionals. They can help us to determine whether medical malpractice occurred in your case and the impact of it on you and your child.
  • Prepare your case for settlement – Based on our investigation and consultation with experts, we can arrive at an amount that should be sought in order to fully and fairly compensate you for the harm you have suffered. We can seek this amount through negotiations with the defendant(s) and insurer(s) involved in your case.
  • Take your case to trial – As you can see from our record, the attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., are skilled litigators who know how to present the strongest case possible when a trial is necessary in a state or federal court.
  • Disburse the funds you are due – When a case is resolved through a settlement or verdict, we will take all of the steps that are needed to collect the award, handle liens and disburse the funds you are owed in either a lump sum or a series of payments.

We do not charge for our legal services unless we obtain a recovery for you.

Get Help from Our Genetic Testing Malpractice Attorneys Today

The medical malpractice lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can provide the skilled and compassionate representation you deserve when dealing with the consequences of genetic testing disorders. You can count on us to use the full extent of our experience and resources to help you seek justice.

If you live in Chicago, Waukegan or elsewhere in Illinois, contact us today to arrange for a free and confidential consultation. Be aware of the statute of limitations for birth injury cases.

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