A pregnancy can be determined to be high risk for any number of reasons but one common factor that makes a pregnancy “high risk” is advanced maternal age. Women who become pregnant when they are older are more likely to carry fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Because of these risks of complication, some mothers-to-be elect to undergo genetic testing known as Chorionic Villus Sampling (“CVS”). CVS is a prenatal test in which a sample of chorionic villi is removed from the placenta for testing. When CVS reveals the presence of a condition that is likely to severely diminish the quality of life of the child, it is generally well within the pregnant woman’s rights to terminate the pregnancy. If that testing is not interpreted accurately – i.e., it is reported as normal – an unwanted, full term pregnancy can result and the parents of the child could have a claim for malpractice under Maryland law.
In addition to Down syndrome, another genetic or congenital abnormality that can occur due to advanced maternal age pregnancy is Smith Magenis Syndrome (“SMS”). SMS is a severe genetic disorder that can cause significant intellectual disability, delayed and impaired speech and language skills, severe sleep disturbances and severe behavioral problems. SMS occurs as the result of a defect on the 17th chromosome. Children who are born with SMS are likely to require a life-time of 24-hour supervision and are unlikely to ever live independently or be gainfully employed.
In medical malpractice cases involving the failure to accurately interpret prenatal genetic testing, the defendants often claim that the chromosomal abnormality is “subtle” or “hard to see.” To refute this defense, your medical malpractice attorney should be armed with experienced, credible experts in genetics who will explain to the jury that although genetic testing is complicated, those who are experienced in performing and evaluating such tests would have had absolutely no difficulty recognizing the chromosomal defect. Of equal importance is the use of genetic experts who have the ability to convey the intricacies of genetic testing to laypersons, such as members of a jury.
If you or a loved one elected to undergo genetic testing that you believe was incorrectly interpreted by a healthcare provider, call one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.