Human Interest

Court sides with couple who sued after aborting their son due to misdiagnosis

ninth circuit, planned parenthood, ultrasound

A couple in Ireland who had an abortion based on a misdiagnosis has been awarded damages because doctors wrongly told them their baby had a poor prenatal diagnosis and would die at birth.

According to The Guardian, the high court in Dublin announced Wednesday that Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely will receive damages after five consultants from Merrion Fetal Health clinic, the hospital, and a lab admitted negligence.

The medical staff had advised the couple to abort their son, Christopher, after two test results in 2019 indicated that he had Trisomy 18, also known as Edward’s syndrome. Though children with Trisomy 18 are capable of surviving and thriving, many doctors consider them to be “incompatible with life” and push parents towards abortion. However, after the couple went through with the abortion, another test result revealed Christopher did not have Trisomy 18.

READ: I was pressured to abort after a decimal point error led to a Down syndrome misdiagnosis

“Christopher was a normal, healthy baby boy,” the couple said in a statement. “It has taken two years, three months and nine days to get to this point. Christopher’s voice has finally been heard and vindicated arising from the full admission of liability on the part of Merrion Fetal Clinic and the NMH, Prof. Fionnuala McAuliffe, Dr. Peter McParland and Prof. Shane Higgins on Tuesday the eleventh hour.”

Price has said she suffered physical and mental trauma upon learning Christopher had been healthy before she chose to take his life. Doctors told the couple that Christopher was going to die at birth, and that there was no point in waiting for the more comprehensive test results to come back. But basic screening tests for conditions such as Trisomy 18 and Down syndrome only reveal a risk percentage of the child having one of the conditions, as opposed to an actual diagnosis. These prenatal screenings can be inaccurate up to 50% of the time, which is why a more complete chromosomal analysis must be done to confirm the diagnosis.

However, doctors insisted Christopher had Trisomy 18, and pressured the parents to abort before the final test results were in.

The couple said they want to meet with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly “to work with him on ways to ensure an event never happens again.” However, the only way to ensure that no child is aborted due to an incorrect prenatal diagnosis is to ban abortion.

Christopher’s abortion was never necessary, yet his parents chose abortion because they believed he would die at birth. While there are children with Trisomy 18 who do not live long after birth, there are resources to help parents to cope with these situations and to help treat their child with the human dignity he or she deserves. It has also been suggested that because doctors frequently treat children with Trisomy 18 as if they are guaranteed to die, they do not receive proper, timely care that could make all the difference in their survival.

Known as “slow code,” some newborns with a poor prognosis have been treated by doctors who have withheld care, slowing down the health care process so that the child dies. The child’s death is them blamed on the health condition rather than on negligence. Parents who are aware of slow code can find doctors who are willing to treat their child, and these children prove that Trisomy 18 is not always the fatal diagnosis doctors make it out to be.

Children with Trisomy 18 who are proving doctors wrong include 12-year-old Faith Smith, Kayden (now 20), Melody (now eight), and Rick Santorum’s daughter Bella (now 12).

Aborting a baby because of a prenatal diagnosis is an act of eugenics. Prenatal testing should be used not as a tool to search-and-destroy children with disabilities but to prepare parents and the medical team to properly care for them so they can live out their full potential.

Every abortion is wrong, unjustifiable, and unethical, not just the ones committed on healthy babies who have been misdiagnosed.

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