The parents of a child born with cystic fibrosis have filed a lawsuit against health care providers saying they would have terminated the pregnancy had they known of the genetic disorder.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle in a story published Sunday reported that Kerrie and Joe Evans of Gardiner filed the lawsuit in October in Gallatin County District Court in Montana, citing emotional distress and increased health care costs. The couple who filed the lawsuit in Montana contend a nurse failed to inform them of blood tests that could have determined if they had a recessive gene involving cystic fibrosis.
Instead, the couple received a report that said nothing was wrong, the lawsuit said.
“This is a case about how several healthcare providers failed to deliver the most basic care and test for cystic fibrosis, resulting in the Evans’ child being born with this incurable, painful, costly and fatal disease,” attorneys Casey Magan and Russ Waddell wrote in the compliant.
Named in the lawsuit are Dr. William Peters, nurse Peggy Scanson, Livingston HealthCare, Bozeman OB/GYN and Shodair Children’s Hospital Department of Medical Genetics. Their attorney, Julie Lichte, has asked that the case be dismissed.
“In an age where prenatal testing can identify genetic indicators for traits ranging from Down Syndrome to eye color, will the court allow parents to sue for a lost right to abort any child the parent subjectively considers ‘imperfect”’ Lichte wrote. “Where do we draw the line?”
Cystic fibrosis causes sticky mucus buildup in the lungs and other organs, leading to infections, digestive problems and death in young adulthood. The typical life expectancy is about 37 years, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Gary E. Marchant, an Arizona State University law professor who specializes in genetics laws, earlier this month said nine states bar both “wrongful life” and “wrongful birth” lawsuits. There have been about a hundred such lawsuits nationwide, including a few in Arizona, said Marchant, who recently did a study on the subject.
Many cases involve a doctor failing to share or properly communicate the results of prenatal screenings or risk factors to parents, he said. Those screenings can test for conditions such as cystic fibrosis or Down syndrome, Marchant said.
The couple said that genetic testing Kerrie Evans, 38, underwent in the first trimester determined the fetus did not have chromosomal abnormalities. They said that same test could have discovered cystic fibrosis, but the analysis was never done.
The lawsuit states that Kerrie Evans told Scanson “that she and her husband, Joe, had already had the most private of discussions about terminating the pregnancy in the event the fetus tested positive for serious fetal abnormalities.”
“In fact, the Evans’ fetus was not `normal,’ but had cystic fibrosis,” the lawsuit says. “The Evans, previously excited about the prospects of raising a normal, healthy child, were prepared neither emotionally nor financially to raise and care for a child with cystic fibrosis.”
Scanson said she told Kerrie Evans about possible tests to take but the couple didn’t ask for them.
“Apparently, Mrs. Evans did not read the . brochures provided to her,” Lichte said. The genetic testing procedure “was ordered because of Mrs. Evans’ `maternal age,’ not a finding of cystic fibrosis-carrier status in the parents.”