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Wrongful birth suit against testing lab can proceed

The parents of a 2-year-old girl with a potentially life-threatening form of anemia have the go-ahead to sue the lab that told them the child would not inherit the condition. A federal judge issued that ruling late last month.

The couple alleges that Laboratory Corp., which has a number of testing sites in Maryland and Washington, D.C., twice performed prenatal genetic tests on the fetus to see if it was affected by the thalessemia beta trait, which can cause great pain, require regular blood transfusions and shortened lifespan.

The parents, merely wanting a healthy baby, had insisted on the tests because they both carry the trait and knew there was a one-in-four chance the baby would be born with the condition. They didn't want that for the child, so they had determined that if the condition was present the pregnancy would be terminated.

Both times the company assured the parents that the fetus was only a carrier of the trait. Not affected.

When the child was born in August, 2009, it soon became clear she did have Cooley's anemia. Doctors performed her first transfusion when she was 1-month-old. There is hope that a bone marrow transplant can reverse her condition. But court documents say it would be very risky, involve chemotherapy and possibly cause infertility in the girl.

Based on the reports we've seen, it appears that the ruling to allow the case to proceed came during pretrial action. The parents were denied a summary judgment in the case. The judge did rule that damage caps called for under Virginia state law will apply in any final decision that is reached. But an apparent request by LabCorp to block the father as a proper plaintiff because he wasn't a "patient" was rejected.

By virtue of the ruling that state law applies, the family may be limited to a damage cap of $2 million and punitive damages of $350,000.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "LabCorp Still on the Hook for Wrongful Birth Claim," Rose Bouboushian, Nov. 18, 2011

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