$2,700,000 Settlement for Failure to Diagnose Thalassemia

The firm settled this wrongful birth failure in prenatal diagnosis claim against the mother’s treating obstetricians.

Routine prenatal bloodwork including hemoglobin electrophoresis confirmed that the mother had beta thalassemia, meaning she was a carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, her less than knowledgeable obstetrician made the common but unsupported mistake of assuming her blood values only reflected benign anemia during pregnancy despite the fact that the mother and father were Italian Americans and the results were instead consistent with the mother being a thalassemia carrier. Despite continued obstetrical visits, no further evaluation was performed by the obstetricians, and they did not recommend that the father be tested to ascertain his carrier status. Late in the pregnancy the mother transferred her care to a new obstetrician who immediately recognized the error, had the father tested and referred the mother for a maternal fetal medicine consult. Tragically, that came too late for acting on that advice. Had that procedure been followed by her first obstetricians, the mother could have proceeded with amniocentesis and received a diagnosis in time to allow her the option to terminate the pregnancy.

The infant was born with thalassemia major and her chronic anemia was so severe, at less than 3 months of age she began to receive blood transfusions every 4 weeks. In addition to transfusions lifelong monitoring and medications to prevent iron overload will also be required.

Armed with the knowledge that they were carriers, the parents chose IVF implantation with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to assure that future children would not be afflicted with this disease.

The settlement was for just below the policy limits and came despite defense attempts to argue that the parents could still have terminated in other states or allegedly even in New Jersey after 24 weeks gestation.