Jury awards nearly $3 million to Portland-area couple in 'wrongful birth' lawsuit against Legacy Health

A jury awarded nearly $3 million to a American couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome even though a prenatal test found she didn't have the chromosomal abnormality.

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The jury voted 12-0, taking less than six hours before reaching a verdict in a 10-day highly emotional trial.The money will cover the estimated extra lifetime costs of caring for a child with Down syndrome.The couple sued claiming that Deborah Levy would have aborted her pregnancy had she known her daughter had the chromosomal abnormality. The lawsuit blames Legacy's Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine for allegedly botching the test. The case was one of just a handful of so-called "wrongful birth" suits estimated to be filed each year in the United States. It was one of an even rarer few to go to trial -- and garner a multi-million dollar verdict. In the process, the case stirred passionate public debate nationally and even internationally.

The Levys' attorney said they sued because they worried about providing all that their daughter would need over her lifetime. Experts testified that she will continue to need speech and physical therapy and face a concerning list of possible medical problems over her lifetime. Professionals have told the family that she will likely never be able to live independently, or earn a living.According to several studies, 89 percent or more of expectant mothers who learned their children would have Down syndrome chose to terminate the pregnancies.She was 34, she and her husband were concerned about the possibility of genetic disorders. Experts testified that about 1 in 250 women that age give birth to a baby with Down syndrome.

Joyful parents of Down’s syndrome children had a different reaction. “Despite the verdict of a jury, ‘wrongful birth’ remains a contradiction in terms,” Melinda Delahoyde, president of the pregnancy resource network Care Net and the mother of a Down’s syndrome child, said in response to the case.

“However challenging the circumstances, every birth is beautiful because every life is a miracle. As the proud mother of a son who shares the diagnosis of the child who became the subject of this trial, I pray that these parents will come to know their daughter, not as a medical mistake, but as the perfect addition to their family that she is.”

Delahoyde added that “what is truly ‘wrongful’ is that nearly 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are quietly aborted before they are born."


Wesley Smith, a director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism, said that “wrongful birth” lawsuits are “merely the newest front in the ongoing eugenic search-and-destroy mission aimed at wiping people with Down syndrome off the face of the earth.”

He called it a “bitter irony” to live “in a society in which the ethical commitment to universal human equality may be at an all-time high. Americans heartily cheer on the participants in the Special Olympics. The Americans with Disabilities Act enjoys widespread support. Yet, many support targeting fetuses with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions for elimination in the womb.”

Smith added that the time has come for society to change its mind about children with disabilities like Down’s syndrome. “We could begin with states prohibiting wrongful birth lawsuits as a matter of public policy,” he suggested. “We may have a right to have a baby, but we don’t — or at least shouldn’t — have a right to the baby we want. Most importantly, none of us should ever be declared by a jury to be a wrongful life.” He expressed his heartfelt hope that Kalanit Levy will never learn that had they had a choice, “her parents would have prevented her from ever being born.”