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Mom sues physician for ‘wrongful birth’ of child with health condition

When Kerrie Evans of Bozeman, Montana, found out she was pregnant in 2009, she wanted her unborn child to be tested for cystic fibrosis. But Evans says she was never tested, and as it turns out, her daughter was, in fact, born with the disease. Evans is now suing her doctor for the “wrongful birth” of her daughter.

Evans says that she was never offered a screening for cystic fibrosis and that she had great difficulty trying to consult with a genetic counselor. Her daughter, now almost 6 years old, was born with cystic fibrosis. Evans is filing a “wrongful birth” lawsuit against her health care providers, citing that her prenatal care lacked sufficient testing, and as a result she was never given the option of terminating the pregnancy, since her daughter wasn’t diagnosed until after birth.

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The term “wrongful birth” tends to be controversial, and when stories like these crop up in the news, moms are often attacked… unfairly.

Evans’ lawyer states that Evans’ daughter is the “love of her life” and that this $14.5 million lawsuit was filed so she could give her daughter the best life possible; $10 million of damages sought are for her daughter’s medical and psychological care, as she has inherited a severe form of this deadly disease.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. It affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices, which are usually thin and slippery. A person with cystic fibrosis has a genetic mutation that causes these fluids to become thick and sticky, thus clogging up the tubes, passageways and airways of many organs, causing difficulty breathing and digesting food, among many other chronic conditions that require medical intervention.

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There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, and it requires daily care. There are tests that can diagnose it while in utero and treatments that can ease the severity of some of the symptoms, though they come with a hefty price tag. Treatments ranging from physical therapy to an extensive lineup of medications and pulmonary rehabilitation to a slew of surgical procedures can all aid patients suffering from cystic fibrosis in obtaining a better quality of life.

Evans stated that she just wanted her daughter to have the happiest life possible. Most assuredly settling a wrongful birth lawsuit for millions of dollars would help her to accomplish this, though filing such a lawsuit certainly doesn’t come without its stigma.

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The name aside, wrongful birth lawsuits aren’t about parents loving their children any less. They’re often centered on the basis that treating a child with a chronic condition comes with an astronomical stack of bills. If these birth defects were something that could have been diagnosed in utero, some parents feel that they might have explored the option of terminating the pregnancy to prevent the suffering of the child in the first place.

In Evans’ case, she feels that the proper testing wasn’t conducted during her pregnancy, and as a result she’s now left with not only the duty of being a mother (which is hard enough sometimes), but she’s also taken on the role of a caregiver and is now financially burdened with the proper medical care that her daughter requires.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions when it comes to these sorts of lawsuits, but it’s important that we gather our facts and consider the difficulties both Evans and her daughter face on a daily basis. What would you do if you were in her shoes?

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