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Deep Dive into Down Syndrome and Related Legal Claims

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Down Syndrome Attorneys in New Jersey

Down syndrome is a condition that has been around for centuries but only became an official diagnosis in the late 19th Century by the condition’s namesake, John Landon Down. Discovering your baby has Down syndrome may be traumatic, especially when you have no warning of the possibility. You may want to know some facts about the condition and your rights if a medical provider’s negligent care played a role in their case.

Birth Defect Lawyers Discuss Frequently Asked Questions about Down Syndrome

How is Down Syndrome Characterized?

The short answer is Down Syndrome is an extra copy of chromosome 21, whether partial or complete. All cells contain genes that carry genetic material in genes having 23 chromosomes. Humans pass down inherited traits through chromosomes in the genes, half of them contributed by each parent; for example, each parent contributes chromosome 21. So, when a child gets an extra chromosome 21 or an extra part of it, they have Down syndrome, typically but not uniformly characterized by upwardly slanted eyes, a small body, soft muscles, and a deeply creased palm.

How Often are Babies Born with Down Syndrome?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of 700 children born yearly has Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic disorder in the United States.

Are there Different Forms of Down Syndrome?

There are three types of Down syndrome. The first is Trisomy 21, or Nondisjunction, which occurs when cell division results in three chromosome 21 copies rather than two when an embryo first forms. The extra chromosome is then copied into each cell throughout the human body. Trisomy 21 is the most common form of Downs.

The second type is mosaicism, which happens when some cells contain an extra chromosome 21 and others do not. Individuals with this type of syndrome may not appear to have the condition but not in all cases. This type is the rarest of the three.

Finally, translocation is when a whole or partial additional chromosome 21 attaches to chromosome 14. So, the person with translocation has the usual 46 chromosomes but with an additional one attached to another chromosome, causing Down syndrome traits.

What Causes Down Syndrome?

In all types of Down syndrome is the extra chromosome 21 in all or some cells. The extra chromosome gets passed down when sperm meets egg, but the condition’s cause is still unclear. Two types, mosaicism and nondisjunction, correlate to advanced maternal age, although most women with Down syndrome babies are younger than 35. Research has yet to discover the condition’s cause, which can come from the mother or father. Neither race nor economic factors predict the birth of a child with Down syndrome.

What Raises the Risk of Having a Child with Down Syndrome?

So far, age is the only risk factor for mosaicism and nondisjunction. The odds of a 35-year-old woman having a baby with Down syndrome are 1 in 300, but the odds for a 45-year-old are 1 in 30, according to  National Down Syndrome Society. Heredity plays a factor in about one-third of translocation cases, but the total percentage of cases due to heredity is only 1%. In addition, the chances of having a second child with Down syndrome is 1 in 100 before the maternal age of 40, though the risk is lower for translocation cases. Genetic counseling can detect which parent carries the translocation genetics.

How is Down Syndrome Identified?

You can get a diagnosis prenatally with genetic screening and diagnostic testing. However, genetic screening is less accurate than diagnostic testing, which can give you a definite diagnosis. Screening can only calculate your chances of having a baby with the syndrome.

Genetic screening for Down syndrome includes a blood test, ultrasound, and patient history review. Blood tests may show markers for the condition or fetal genetic material. Combined with an ultrasound that shows the fetus and the mother’s age, a physician may estimate the likelihood of the fetus having it. Genetic screenings used to be offered only to pregnant women aged 35 or older but are now available to most women.

Diagnostic tests are chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. For both, a medical provider inserts a needle into the amniotic sac to draw fluid samples containing fetal genetic material. CVS occurs in the first trimester, while amniocentesis occurs in the second. Both run a slight chance of miscarriage.

Another way to diagnose the syndrome is at birth. A baby born with Down syndrome has flaccid muscles, a deep crease in the center of their palms, upwardly slanting eyes, and a flattened face. Doctors perform karyotype chromosome analysis to confirm the diagnosis by drawing the baby’s blood to see the cells. They then map out the chromosomal groupings to look for the extra chromosome, confirming a child has Down syndrome.

Should Doctors Run Prenatal Tests for Down Syndrome?

Though they can get a diagnosis at birth, parents benefit most from an early diagnosis to prepare psychologically, emotionally, and financially for a child with special needs. The degree of help a child with the syndrome needs varies. But more importantly, prenatal testing helps parents make the crucial decision to continue the pregnancy, a choice that is removed later in the pregnancy. New Jersey women may terminate their pregnancies up to 24 weeks at a hospital, which doctors must inform their patients of or risk liability for negligence. Parents may not be able to care for a child with special needs for a variety of reasons, so the ability to choose is critical for all involved.

A child with Down syndrome may have learning disabilities and likely to have heart defects; sleep apnea (temporary breathing stoppages); spinal cord injury risks; autoimmune diseases; and susceptibility to leukemia, early-onset dementia, obesity, and digestive system problems. They may also have hearing and vision impairment due to ear infections and eye disorders. Sometimes, these impairments can be serious, and they may need routine medical oversight for a lifetime.

Can Down Syndrome be Cured?

Down syndrome is incurable. Babies born with the condition will have it for the rest of their lives. However, physical, speech, occupational, and other therapies, along with other services, can develop a child’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual abilities and skills to navigate through life.

What Happens when a Doctor Fails to Test for Down Syndrome or Inform Parents about Prenatal Testing?

Since prenatal testing is crucial to an early diagnosis, a physician who fails to inform patients about genetic testing and Down syndrome risks may be liable for medical malpractice when a baby is born with the condition. Obstetrician-gynecologists routinely offer their pregnant patients prenatal screening for Down syndrome now, and a physician who does not offer or inform their patients of the availability of such testing and the risks of birthing a child with the condition is not practicing medicine within the acceptable standards of their specialty. A court may find the physician negligent for not providing genetic counseling.

NJ Down Syndrome Lawyers Seek Compensation for Children and Families

When doctors fail to offer prenatal testing and inform mothers and parents about Down syndrome risks, they may be liable for the wrongful birth of a child who will need expensive lifelong care. The doctor who commits malpractice may be responsible for the medical bills for monitoring and treatment for the child’s life. They may also be responsible for the bills for the child’s therapies and other costs related to the child’s Down syndrome. Finally, a liable party may owe the victims compensation for their psychological damages due to a child being forced to struggle and suffer with a birth defect.

Filing a wrongful birth claim against a negligent doctor is not easy to accomplish, particularly without knowledgeable legal counsel. Insurance companies often take advantage of claimants without attorneys because they assume those seeking compensation do not know the law and will take less than the amount to compensate them fully. As such, having a dedicated medical malpractice lawyer advocating for you is imperative for the success of your case.

Our Commitment to Fighting for Victims with Down Syndrome Negligence Claims in New Jersey

Our medical malpractice lawyers regularly deal with insurance companies, defendants’ attorneys, and others who try to stand in the way of you receiving justice and being fully compensated for negligent medical care. We can protect you from the tactics insurance companies use to get you to settle a claim for too little, and since we know the law on such a deep level, our lawyers may negotiate a settlement with an insurer or bring your case to a jury at a trial. Our medical negligence attorneys have spent decades practicing in this area of law, so we can investigate your case and gather all of the evidence you need to convince a jury that your physician or another healthcare provider caused you damages by their negligence.

Contact our seasoned New Jersey down syndrome lawyers to learn more about your rights to seek compensation if you suspect that a physician or another medical professional neglected to educate you about birth defect testing, risks, and related complications. We invite you to call 866-708-8617 to discuss your unique situation with our team in a free consultation anytime.

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