Down Syndrome Lawyers in New Jersey
Down syndrome is a birth condition defined by the extra chromosome 21, which is a complete or partial copy of chromosome 21. Unfortunately, many doctors do not know enough about diagnosing and treating Down syndrome, nor what causes it. As a result, they may fail to test for, diagnose, or prepare expectant parents for the potential associated health problems, such as hearing loss, sleep apnea, ear infections, eye problems, heart problems, spinal cord injury, gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune disease, infection, and obesity. Those with Down syndrome are also at higher risk for dementia and leukemia. While Down syndrome itself is not deadly, complications from the condition can be fatal. Treatment for this lifelong condition consists of occupational, speech, and physical therapy to help those with the condition live their fullest lives.
Caring for a child with Down syndrome is expensive. Although some with Down syndrome have shorter lifespans, others live long lives, possibly even outliving their parents upon whom they are most likely dependent. As such, parents must have long-term planning for the financial and personal needs of their children with Down syndrome. If your doctor never offered you the option of prenatal genetic testing amidst pregnancy, or neglected to prepare you for the unexpected condition of Down syndrome in your baby by not counseling, screening, and testing you for birth defects, you may have a wrongful birth action against your healthcare provider.
Fronzuto Law Group is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout New Jersey who suffer the undue costs of medical mistakes. As experienced medical malpractice, wrongful birth, and birth injury attorneys, our team is poised to investigate your child’s specific case and to walk you through every phase of the process for obtaining compensation. Led by our founder, New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Civil Trial Attorney Ernest Fronzuto, our team concentrates on the field of medical negligence law in order to practice at the top of our field in this highly complex area. Mr. Fronzuto has argued these cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, earning widespread recognition and major victories for our clients.
Meaning of Down Syndrome
Chromosomes carry genes that are passed along at conception. Human cells contain nuclei that hold genetic information, and each nucleus has 23 chromosomal pairs, one half donated by the mother and one half by the father. Genes determine physiological characteristics of a forming fetus, including all the body’s systems and parts. Humans without genetic chromosomal defects are born with 46 chromosomes. Down syndrome babies have that additional chromosome, known as Trisomy 21, which causes the condition and its symptoms.
When cells divide to form the first human development stage, the embryo, mistakes can happen. Down syndrome embryos are marked by an irregularity in the process of dividing cells. In essence, it occurs when chromosome 21 is copied three times rather than the typical duplicate copy. The chromosome 21 pair donated from mother or father do not separate, a phenomenon known as disjunction, ultimately resulting in the third chromosome 21. Trisomy 21 is then reproduced in all the body’s cells.
There are multiple ways in which Down syndrome may manifest. For instance, Mosaic Down syndrome is a form of Down syndrome physicians discover when the cells have either the 46 chromosomes or the extra 21 chromosome, so the cells include a combination of two types of cells. The result is still Down syndrome, but the symptoms may be different and often include less of those experienced by the majority of individuals with Down syndrome. In addition, translocation occurs when the cells have 46 chromosomes but chromosome 21 conjoins completely or partially to another chromosome, most often chromosome 14.
Symptoms of Children with Down Syndrome
There are a number of notable symptoms when it comes to down syndrome, including:
- Lesser muscle tone
- Lower IQ than normal
- Shorter stature
- Almond shaped, slanted eyes
- A truncated neck
- Small ears
- Flattened face
- Hands and feet that are reduced in size when compared with others
About 1 out of every 700 babies is born with Down syndrome annually. Women older than 35 are more at risk to birth a child with Down syndrome than younger mothers, even though more babies with Down syndrome are born to those younger than 35. Many older women are routinely screened for Down syndrome during pregnancy.
Tests Used to Diagnose Down Syndrome
Screening and diagnostic tests, such as blood tests and ultrasounds, detect certain blood components that may indicate the condition or find fluid at the back of the baby’s neck, a sign of genetic defects. Screening tests can detect genetic problems, but not precisely Down syndrome. As such, diagnostic tests follow a positive screening to check for Down syndrome and include:
- Chorionic villus sampling: a sampling of the placenta
- Amniocentesis: a sampling of the amniotic fluid
- Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling: a sample of umbilical cord blood
At birth, a physician can diagnose Down syndrome by the typical physical characteristics, including a deep line across the baby’s palm and the upward slanting eyes. To confirm, doctors perform a chromosomal blood test called karyotype or FISH to examine the baby’s cells by photographing and then ordering them to identify the chromosome numbers.
Overall, testing for Down syndrome has improved dramatically over the years. It is possible through these tests to recognize and diagnose Down syndrome with 100% accuracy, making a physician’s decision not to advise their pregnant patient, especially one over 35, of the need for genetic counseling and possibility of genetic testing all the more unconscionable. Failure to inform and conduct genetic testing is a particular form of medical negligence known as wrongful birth.
Negligent Prenatal Screening for Down Syndrome and Failure to Diagnose
Babies diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth may be shocking to their parents, especially if no tests were run during pregnancy to even suggest to a parent or parents that their baby may have a genetic condition. Even with proper prenatal screening, no parent told during pregnancy that their child will be born with Down syndrome will be unaffected. And although the decision is never easy, parents should have the option to make the best decisions for their family in the face of the looming responsibilities that come with caring for a child with a genetic condition. It should also be an option, at the bare minimum, to terminate the pregnancy in an appropriate timeframe if parents believe they are unable to care for a child with lifelong, expensive healthcare needs.
You know what is best for your family, and if you were not given the choice to map out your life in the way you believe is best, everyone suffers. If your physician failed to inform you of your right to genetic screening tests, failed to order screening and diagnostic tests for defects and chromosomal abnormalities, improperly performed genetic testing, incorrectly read the results of such tests, or failed to convey the results, you may have a viable wrongful birth claim.
If you suspect you may have grounds, it is advisable to discuss the pros and cons of filing a wrongful birth and malpractice action. A seasoned attorney can help you to determine if your provider’s negligence entitles you to financial damages for the wrongful birth of your child. Damages include not only your past medical bills for your child’s healthcare, but also future medical costs to care for your child for the rest of their life. Economic damages include all losses due to the birth of your child and non-economic damages include the emotional distress endured after wrongful birth.
Contact NJ Attorneys who can Help when Negligent Genetic Testing Misses Your Child’s Down Syndrome
The New Jersey Down Syndrome Attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group assist clients and their families who have been forced to cope with the consequences of negligent testing and failure to diagnose down syndrome in New Jersey. When medical professionals neglect to provide genetic counseling, prenatal screening upon request, or an accurate diagnosis and explanation of all of your options, our legal team has the knowledge and experience to stand in the gap for you and your child. We are pleased to serve clients throughout the state, including in Bergen County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Hudson County, Monmouth County, and everywhere in between.