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What Unspoken Message Does a “Wrongful Birth” Lawsuit Send?

A Portland OR couple sued their obstetrician for failing to diagnose their now four year old daughter with Trisomy 21 and last month they were awarded $3 million dollars in “damages.”  The money is to pay for the extra care their child will need as experts say that she is not expected to ever be able to live on her own.

The couple’s attorney, has expressed that this lawsuit was about their love for their child, not whether or not they would have killed her in the womb. In a statement to KATU Channel 2 in Portland, he explains, “These are parents who love this little girl very, very much. Their mission since the beginning was to provide for her and that’s what this is all about.”

Michael Coren, host of “The Michael Coren Show,” asked me a provocative question in an interview last fall, “When you tuck your daughter in at night, does the fact that there are many out there who want to kill your daughter haunt you?”

I replied, “Although I don’t come across these people in everyday life, I read about them in the news, and it motivates me every single day for the past six years to write about the joy and beauty of my daughter with Down syndrome to overcome their ignorance. I want to create a better world for Christina, where she is welcomed, included,  and valued for her unique contributions to society.”

But the Levy’s aren’t ignorant, they have had four years raising their daughter. It cuts me to the quick when parents seek damages for the “wrongful life” of their own child. I think ahead to when she can read, and wonder if she will be surfing the net one day and come across her own name in an article. What will go through her mind? How will the Levy’s explain this to her?

No matter what they say, its bound to come across as “we regretted your birth and wanted the chance to abort you.”

I know several people who were shocked to discover too late in life that they were adopted, but at least they had grown up with parents who chose them. This little girl (I am not using her name in hope that she’ll never find this article) does not have that consolation. It makes me angry for her, and at the parents who did not love her enough to either appreciate her unique gifts or give her up for adoption. There are over 200 parents in America waiting to adopt children with Down syndrome, they don’t have to raise her themselves.

The attorney’s claim that the child will never be able to live alone and that the huge amount of damages are needed to help her because she cannot live on her own doesn’t convince me. First of all, people with Down syndrome are living fuller, more independent lives than ever before, and overcoming the cognitive difficulties associated with Down syndrome is the subject of several promising clinical studies around the world (Acosta, Mobley). By the time this young lady is old enough to live alone she may be able to take medication that would improve her thinking and memory to the point where she can function independently.   If she can’t there are many group homes available to support her in a fulfilled, happy lifestyle.

What further angers me is that the Levy’s are promulgating the false notion that one needs to be wealthy to raise a child with Down syndrome. I have encountered that mindset in several articles and I know it is not true. Certainly therapy and help can be purchased, but I have found that, with minimal effort, a plethora of free or insurance-covered goods and services can be obtained: behavioral training, additional therapy, summer camps, respite care,  grants for things such as backyard fencing, and even an Ipad. I have never wanted for help in supporting my daughter’s development.

Lastly the Levy’s are sending a message to obstetricians in this nation by their lawsuit: if you have any doubts about whether an unborn baby has Down syndrome, you had better err on the side of caution, diagnose Down syndrome, and advise the couple to terminate, or face career-wrecking malpractice lawsuits and insurance premiums. There is a dearth of medical students willing to enter obstetrics for this reason, and this will make it even worse.

Or, perhaps the new maternal blood tests like MaterniT21 which promise nearly 100% accuracy in diagnosing Trisomy 21 in early pregnancy, will make such lawsuits irrelevant, as they will effectively eliminate the nearly the entire population of people with Down syndrome.

Read the article about the Levy’s wrongful birth lawsuit here.


Leticia Velasquez is a wife and homeschooling mother of three daughters. Leticia is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Faith and Family magazine,  a columnist for Celebrate Life magazine, and blogger at Cause of Our Joy and at Catholic Media Review. She is the editor of A Special Mother is Born: Parents Share How God Called Them to the Extraordinary Vocation of Parenting a Special Needs Child.


  • john2000young

    That was an incredible lawsuit.