In 2003, an OB-GYN agreed during trial to pay $1.25 million dollars in damages. His mistake? Failing to conduct a genetic test. The couple had a child who was born with Canavan Disease, which they were at risk for as they were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Their doctor failed to advise them of their risk, or to offer them the option of genetic testing.
As genetic testing becomes more prevalent and as more and more diseases become detectable through genetic testing, the responsibilities of doctors to conduct these kinds of tests also increases. If you fall into an at risk category, your doctor is legally required to offer you genetic testing options.
Who is at Risk for Genetic Diseases?
You may be considered at risk if:
- The mother is over 35 years of age.
- You’ve had a previous child with a birth defect.
- You’ve had a previous spontaneous abortion or a previous stillbirth.
- Your family has a history of genetic diseases.
Ethnicities that may be at risk for genetic diseases include:
- French Canadians (Tay-Sachs Disease)
- Ashkenazi Jews (Tay-Sachs Disease)
- Black African (Sickle Cell Anemia)
- Mediterranean (Sickle Cell Anemia, Alpha & Beta Thalassemia)
- Arabic (Sickle Cell Anemia)
- Indian (Sickle Cell Anemia)
- Pakistani (Sickle Cell Anemia)
- Chinese (Alpha & Beta Thalassemia)
Other disorders that might be screened for include: Duchenne dystrophy, Fragile X syndrome, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and neurofibromatosis.
What Are Your Doctor’s Obligations To You?
Your doctor is obligated to ask you about your ancestry, family and genetic background. They should ask whether your family has a history of genetic issues. They should ask you to write out the different ethnicities of your ancestors, for both you and your partner.
Your OB-GYN should not make assumptions on whether or not you’re in an at-risk group based on physical appearance. Even someone who has a removed ancestor who’s in an at-risk group could still be at-risk of having a birth defect.
If you fall into any at risk categories, your doctor should offer you the option of a test. Whether or not you conduct the test is up to you. Many of the tests are unobtrusive, requiring just a blood test or a saliva sample. Some tests are more intrusive, requiring tests of the uterus or fetus. In each case, your doctor should let you know what the pros and cons of conducting the test are, before asking if you’d like to take the test.What is Your Legal Recourse When Your Child Is Born With A Condition That Should Have Been Detected?
If your doctor didn’t offer the option of genetic testing, if your doctor failed to let you know if you were in an at-risk group, or if your doctor misread the genetic test results and you had a child with a birth defect as a result, chances are you have legal recourse. Many previous cases show strong precedent for failure to conduct or misread genetic testing. To learn more about what kind of legal recourse you may be entitled to, contact the genetic testing error attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC at 888-424-5757 or complete the contact form on this page.