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Below are synopses of relevant cases. To see the complete description of a particular case, click on the case name.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Medical Malpractice -- Duty to Warn
Case Name: Pate v. Threlkel
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Medullary thyroid carcinoma
Date: 1995
Jurisdiction:Supreme Court of Florida
Short Synopsis: Heidi Pate brought suit against her motherís physician for not warning her mother (New) that her medical condition was hereditary and could be passed onto her children.
Outcome:The court ruled that Newís physician had a duty to warn New of the hereditary nature of her disease. Where "the children of the patient first establish that a reasonably prudent physician would give such warning to his or her patient in light of all relevant circumstances," a physician does owe a duty of care to the children of a patient, and this duty is satisfied by "warn[ing] the patient of the genetically transferable nature of the condition for which the physician is treating the patient."

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Medical Malpractice -- Duty to Warn
Case Name: Safer v. The Estate of Pack
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Hereditary multiple polyposis
Date: 1996
Jurisdiction: Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
Short Synopsis: Plaintiff brought suit against her fatherís doctor for not warning her family that her father had a hereditary condition of multiple polyposis, a condition from which the plaintiff later suffered.
Outcome:The appeals court recognized "a physician's duty to warn those known to be at risk of avoidable harm from a genetically transmissible condition." The appeals court reversed the lower court's dismissal of the complaint but affirmed the denial of the plaintiffís motion for summary judgment on liability. The court determined that further proceedings must be done in order to answer questions such as the extent of Donnaís risk and the damages caused by lack of warning. The court also poses the question that if a patient specifically asks their doctor not to disclose information about their medical status, whether, as a matter of law, there ought to be limits on physician-patient confidentiality, especially after a patientís death if a risk of harm is still apparent to his survivors.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Medical Malpractice -- IVF
Case Name: Harnicher v. University of Utah Medical Center
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition:
Date: 1998
Jurisdiction:Supreme Court of Utah
Short Synopsis: Parents brought suit on hospital after it was discovered that the hospital did not use the donor sperm (along with the husbandís sperm) chosen by the parents in performing in vitro fertilization. The resulting triplets did not carry the desired traits, clearly indicating that the children came from the donor sperm, causing emotional and mental illness upon the parents.
Outcome:The court held that "[e]xposure to the truth about oneís own situation cannot be considered an injury and has never been a tort. Therefore, destruction of a fiction cannot be grounds for either malpractice or negligent infliction of emotional distress." Mrs. Harnicherís claimed that even though she had not seen what the chosen donorís children would have looked like, they would have been better looking, and she was damaged by that fact. The court ruled that it would be impossible to speculate if the children of the chosen donor would have been superior and it cannot support an action for negligent infliction. The court found that the Harnichers "presented no evidence at all that the physiological characteristics of three normal healthy children, which could not have been reliably predicted in any event, present circumstances with which 'a reasonable [person,] normally constituted, would be unable to adequately cope.'" One judge dissented from the rest in agreeing with the parents that negligence did take place by not using the donor of their choice.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
Case Name: Doolan v. IVF America (MA) Inc.
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: cystic fibrosis
Date: 2000
Jurisdiction:Superior Court of Massachusetts, at Middlesex
Short Synopsis: Plaintiffs Laureen and John Doolan brought suit against defendants for loss of consortium with their child after he was born with the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis. Mr. and Mrs. Doolan participated in procedures with defendants to prevent the birth of a child with this genetic disorder. The plaintiff child also brought suit against defendant for wrongful birth.
Outcome:The court ruled that loss of consortium with child was too speculative. There was no way to know how the relationship between the parents and the child would have been if he had been born healthy. Claim of plaintiff's child was also denied by the court because he could not under any circumstances have been born healthy. The court ruled, "Defendants did not create his injury, they failed to identify it. Recovery for medical costs was a claim only plaintiff parents could recover for."

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Negligence - Wrongful Birth
Case Name: Curlender v. Bio-Science Laboratories
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Tay-Sachs Disease
Date: 1980 (case), 1977 (failure to diagnose)
Jurisdiction:Court of Appeals of California
Short Synopsis: Genetic counselors gave parents of the plaintiff a false negative test result for Tay-Sachs.
Outcome:The court held that the child and the parents could recover the costs of the child's medical expenses and that the child could recover damages for her pain and suffering but could only recover damages according to her life span, not her expected life span had she been born healthy. NOTE: California Supreme Court denied review of the Curlender case, however in a subsequent California Supreme Court decision (Turpin v. Sortini, 643 P.2d 954 (1982)) the court later criticized the Curlender case for permitting the child to recover damages for her pain and suffering. The court said, "[t]he basic fallacy of the Curlender analysis is that it ignores the essential nature of the defendants' alleged wrong and obscures a critical difference between wrongful life actions and the ordinary prenatal injury cases [Ö]."

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Negligence - Wrongful Birth
Case Name: Munro v. Regent of the University of California
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Tay-Sachs Disease
Date: 1989 (case), 1985 (failure to conduct prenatal testing)
Jurisdiction:Court of Appeals of California
Short Synopsis: Parents not informed of test for Tay-Sachs disease.
Outcome:Court found no duty for genetic counselors to test or advise regarding the possibility of the disease when parents are not suspect for carrying the gene.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Negligence - Wrongful Birth
Case Name: Keel v. Banach
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Anencephaly, spina bifida
Date: 1993 (case), 1985 (failure to timely diagnose)
Jurisdiction:Supreme Court of Alabama
Short Synopsis: Failure to perform amniocentesis, failure to timely diagnose birth defects.
Outcome:The case was reversed and remanded. The Keels do have a cause of action for wrongful birth. The court held that "a so-called wrongful birth case is in reality a medical negligence malpractice case' and "the parents of a genetically or congenitally defective child may maintain an action for its wrongful borth if the birth was the result of the negligent failure of the attending prenatal physician to discover and inform them of the existence of fetal defects." Parents could potentially recover (if properly proven) all medical costs incurred as result of the physician's negligence, pain suffered by wife, loss of consortium, emotional distress suffered by parents.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Negligence - Wrongful Birth
Case Name: Bader v. Johnson
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Hydrocephalus
Date: 2000 (case), 1991 (failure to properly diagnose birth defects)
Jurisdiction:Supreme Court of Indiana
Short Synopsis: Parents sued genetic counselors because of wrongful birth of their child.
Outcome:Remanded. A claim for wrongful birth should be addressed as any other medical malpractice claim. One judge dissented.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Negligence- Wrongful Birth
Case Name: Goldberg v. Ruskin
Status: Published court decision
Genetic/Medical Condition: Tay-Sachs disease
Date: 1986 (case), 1978 (failure to timely diagnose)
Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of Illinois
Short Synopsis: Failure to timely diagnose Tay-Sachs. The parents filed a wrongful life suit on behalf of their son.
Outcome:Court did not recognize claim for compensation of damages for pain and suffering from wrongful life brought by the parents on behalf of the affected child. One judge dissented.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Gene Therapy
Case Name: Gelsinger v. University of Pennsylvania
Status: Settled out of court
Genetic/Medical Condition: Ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency.
Date: 1999, 2000
Jurisdiction:Lawsuit filed, settled out of court (Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas)
Short Synopsis: 18 year old boy died in gene therapy phase one safety clinical trial.
Outcome:After reports of conflicts of interest and ethical violations, Gelsingerís family settled with the University for an undisclosed amount.

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Genetic Counselling - Discrimination
Case Name: Geller F
Status: Case from survey
Genetic/Medical Condition: Huntington's Disease
Date: Pre 1996
Jurisdiction:
Short Synopsis: Physicians coerced carrier to sign agreement that she would abort a pregnancy affected with Huntington disease.
Outcome:N/A

Area(s): Medical Malpractice
Issue:
Genetic Counseling - Discrimination
Case Name: Geller E
Status: Case from survey
Genetic/Medical Condition: Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Date: Pre 1996
Jurisdiction:
Short Synopsis: Doctor advised PKU gene carrier not to have more children.
Outcome:Doctor recommended that carrier seek further advice from genetic counselor.




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