Down syndrome does not equal defective

What would you do if, after nine months of pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who unexpectedly had Down syndrome? For two Portland, Oregon parents, the answer is sue. That’s right: they’re suing the hospital because they say doctors didn’t diagnose their daughter while they were pregnant.

Doctors at Legacy Health told a local couple their unborn baby did not have Down syndrome, but now the hospital is facing a multimillion dollar lawsuit after the couple said they based a life-changing decision on wrong results.

The case is currently being heard in a Multnomah County courtroom.

According to court documents, the couple’s daughter is now four years old and does have Down syndrome, something, the parents say, will impact all of them for the rest of their lives. The girl’s parents are suing the hospital for $7 million, saying that’s the cost of a lifetime of care.

The parents say doctors “repeatedly advised” them that a test of their unborn baby “definitely ruled out Down syndrome” and even told them indicators that said otherwise were “not reliable.”

Based on those results the couple chose to continue the pregnancy and now call the doctors “negligent in their performance, analysis and reporting” of the test results.

Apparently, we are to presume that, had they known they were having a child with a disability, they would have aborted. Shockingly, they didn’t want their names released to be public, because of the potential backlash over such a controversial topic. One would think that if they know that there would be backlash over this lawsuit, they might also be able to realize how idiotic and wrong this lawsuit is.

This case is troubling on a number of levels. First, what is not mentioned is what type of screening was done. Most prenatal screenings are not diagnostic. They come back positive or negative, but all it really does is give you an idea of what the odds are that your child will have Down syndrome. Blood tests, soft markers seen on an ultrasound — these are not reliable. Then there are diagnostic tests, like an amniocentesis. But even those are not 100% accurate. Nothing in the medical profession ever is. There is always a chance that things won’t happen the way you expect them to. Sometimes, doctors are wrong. Tests come back with the wrong results. It happens. If patients sued every single time that something unexpected happened in the medical profession, we would have no doctors left.

The more disturbing aspect of this, though, is that insinuation that their child is somehow broken. Down syndrome is a disability. It doesn’t make your child defective. This child is four years old now. So for four years they’ve lived with the diagnosis, and have now decided that, what? She’s too much work and they need to be compensated for the hassle of having to raise a little girl who committed the crime of being born with an extra chromosome?

If this is their mindset, then they should have put her up for adoption. There are plenty of people (myself included) who would see their daughter as a beautiful child to love, and not as a bargaining chip to get money out of a hospital. What would they have done if their baby was born “normal” (so to speak), and then developed, say, cancer? Would they sue the pediatrician?

Part of being a parent means accepting the unknown, and loving your child no matter what. If they can’t give their daughter the unconditional love she deserves — which, by the way, doesn’t come with a price tag — then they don’t deserve to be parents.

Their entire argument consists of the fact that, had they known their four-year-old daughter had an extra chromosome, they wouldn’t have allowed her to live. How can a parent look at their child and then say, “if I had known you had a disability, I wouldn’t have let you live”?

The heartbreaking fact that 90% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted is due to attitudes like those of these parents. Instead of choosing to love their child, they’re looking at their little girl as if she is a product they wish they could return.

The reality is that children with Down syndrome are not defective, they are not broken; they are blessings to be cherished, just like a “normal” child. Every life has value and meaning and beauty to it, regardless of how many chromosomes they possess.

  • Hovish13

    Situations like this are the inspiration for my senior project- raising money for an adoption agency that deals specifically with children with Downs. 

    What has the world come to?

  • My Aunt Margie lived 50 years with Downs Syndrome. Our family is what it is today, close and connected, because of Margie and my Grandmother’s unwavering love and commitment to her!

  • Carol

    I am not saying that I agree with aborting a child with downs syndrome that is wrong every child deserves to be born. perhaps if the couple would have known the child have downs they could have made arrangements for adoption. I have a child who is handicapped due to a vaccine and I can say it is not easy to raise a handicapped child. It causes a lot of stress and depression. I can only imagine what this couple is going through.

    • Marshhillk

      No one deserves the stress and pain of a handicapped child, and I feel sorry for you. Although these parents have a child with Downs Syndrome. These children can function on their own. Everything God gives us we are to embrace and understand that their is a reason behind it all. Our job is to Love them unconditionally, no matter what.

  • Fom4life

    My wife and I would take that baby in a heartbeat.

    • JPalko

       My wife and I would take the baby as well. No need to end life, no court, no suing, no monies for anyone. We would just care for and love the baby as our own.

      •  So have you adopted or taken in any special needs kids? It’s not that difficult to qualify as long as you are not a convicted felon.

        • zzzzz78759



         We would as well! Thank God there are still good hearted people on earth! We wouldn’t want any money,assistance, court, suing, anything. I would ask that these “birth parents” make this a closed adoption. I would not want that child to ever have any inkling they weren’t wanted. Those people deserve this child taken away as long with any other child. U dont get to pick what the kid looks like so why would u be able to pick chromosomes…

    •  So why haven’t you? There are tons of kids waiting to be adopted. It’s not that difficult to adopt a child with special needs as long as you are not a felon.


        MICHELLE M WILLIAMS are you being serious or are you really that ignorant? “Difficult” have u tried??!?!?!?! From your ignorant answer i assume you havent adopted and i hope you haven’t spread your seed of hatred around too! Please go try to adopt and go thru the hassles and tell me how fast, cheaply (since the government wants everyone to pay for abortions and birth control then people should be paid too) and i want to know the YOUNGEST age of a BABY you can get. Are you that ignorant to NOT realize MARRIED COUPLES are on WAITING LISTS  FOR NEWBORNS!!!!! It is not easy to get a newborn whether they have special needs or not. So next time you jump on people for WELCOMING ANY BABY IN THEIR HOME REMEMBER NOT EVERYONE gets the chance to be “bothered in the middle of the night for a feeding”. Some women cry every night because they have NEVER felt the embrace from a baby. Yes, they LOVE their toddler special needs children but they have NEVER craddled a baby in their chest. U are so ignorant i hope you use protection and never spread your evil seed around.

        •  My aunt is a single woman and was able to adopt a little black girl in about 6 months. She was a couple of months old when she was adopted and now she is a teen. If you want to adopt a special needs child or a non-white child it’s not that difficult. The waiting list is for healthy white newborns. About 10% of the population is special needs but many of these children languish in foster care. If you have no criminal history it’s easy to adopt one of these children. I have no respect for people who talk about how they would adopt but don’t ever actually lift a finger. And my partner and I plan to have at least 3 children just to piss you off.

  • Shelley

    This story AGGRAVATES ME TO NO END! I gave birth to my precious angel in Feb 2011, we didn’t know the WHOLE time I was pregnant we were carrying a special angel.  We found out when she was 3 days old she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, she is the most precious child you will ever meet.  She is loving, she smiles, laughs, eats, does everything her big brother does, she just does it in her time not ours.  PARENTS like THESE shouldn’t have a child!  Oh I could say more but I am biting my tongue.

  • These people do not deserve that beautiful daughter that God has blessed them with!! A judge should take the child from them and place her with a family who will cherish her for who she is and not consider her as “defective goods”!!!! 

  • Down’s children are some of the most loving and caring children in the world. This couple doesn’t deserve such an adoring child!

  • Paige

    My now 19 year old daughter is mentally retarded.  She is high functioning and a blessing to all who meet her.  That being said, my entire pregnancy, birth and first years indicated that all was “normal.”  I can’t believe that having the knowledge of her handicap in utero would actually cause someone to decide not to have her!  She is an amazing young woman and we are greatly blessed to have her for a LIFETIME.

  • EVERY child is “PRECIOUS” to God !!! It is the Nations,America,The world,and society,who are the ones with a handicap.They are lacking wisdom,knowledge,understand,Love,and compassion,for GOD and all He creates.They have selfish attitudes and total disrespect for the creator of life, and the Blood shed in Love for a vile generation by the son Jesus Christ.This child is special,a priceless treasure,a wonderful gift,to an unthankful people.If you don’t want this child,give her to me and I will Love her like she is my very own.You may see a child with down syndrome,a burden,a problem for your social life,I see a life time of Love and affection from a Beautiful being made in GODs image.Shame on you for being so very rude and disrespectful to this child and God !! 

  • Amy L

    Our daughter is 4 1/2 and has Down Syndrome. She was diagnosed after she was born. Because of pre-term labor, we opted not to have amnio. Even in hindsight, there were no prenatal indicators of DS. And you know what? It didn’t matter. She is our baby and always will be. You’re so right – choosing to conceive a child means that you choose to love unconditionally. She has been the most precious gift ever for us, for our son, for our extended families and so many others. Congratulations on your new little man. He will be the light of your life.

  • Slabrado

    If they don’t want her, I will take her!

  • Mcbet4God

    I’m thinking of the word DisAble which means UnAble. Unable to do what?  Whatever “normal” people consider???  People with Down Syndrome are very much Able!  Able to Love greater and un-conditionally which is something “normal” people have a great difficulty doing!   We can LEARN ALOT from DisAbled people!  We can see that they are MUCH MORE ABLE than we!

  • Razamatar15

    Someone should put up posters for children to”abort” their parents in abortion clinics. Think that would mess with people?

  • Marshhillk

    This case should be dismissed , her parents are disgusting.

  • Susan Mateo88

    Unbelievable! I had all the tests 2B ready 2 properly care for my baby born w/ DS 16 yrs ago. Sheis my greatest blessing!

  • Dotherightthing

    That couple really needs some help. A child with down syndrom is like any other child. She is human, and she has feelings. In my family there is a little girl with down syndrom and I love her with all my heart. She is like any other child. She goes to school, she knows that life isn’t fair, and above all that she brings to our lifes. I have a question for this odd couple “What if your baby would have came out normal and when he/she was older and came up to you and say ‘Mom and Dad I am gay’ would you also sue your child for being gay?” I have nothing against gay people. I do say I am sorry if I offen anyone with this comment. I don’t understand how you could be so mean to a poor child who has no fault. I really hope that you realize what you are doing to that poor child. If for one minute they would stop being mean and try to be happy that no matter how much money they get out of this that this little girl just wants some love and give it to her.

  • For 18 years I’ve been blessed with my  wonderfully creative, intelligent son, Joe. We all credit Joe with teaching us how to love, drawing us closer to God, and to each other. People just gravitate to him, no matter where we are. He’s got such an incredible capacity for love and acceptance. Never regretted his birth, not for one second. Joe is such a blessing; Down Syndrome is just a label; Joe doesn’t let it define him, any more than being left-handed or red-haired would define a person.

  • Maria Hubeny

    People are outrageous these days! How sad for this little girl to have parents like that. Children are a gift and yes, to have a child with down syndrome is a great gift. It’s very unfortunate that these parents, who should be unconditionally loving their child, just see $$. That makes me think that one day, if a the sex of the baby is incorrect, parents are going to want to sue for that as well, “We wanted a boy, not a girl” Geeeze, people, stop yourself and be thankful!!

  • Crystalsova

    They don’t deserve that little girl, how selfish!

  • Mark10038

    No doubt there are parents of special needs children who are totally devoted, just as there are parents who are bitter that their baby has special needs. When the child is 50, and the parents are in their 70’s and 80’s, their perspective may be different than it is now. In either case.
    Rather than abuse the parents of this special needs baby, take out your checkbook and contribute in a meaningful way to the $7 million in costs the child will need over a lifetime. Put your money where your keyboard is. It is awfully easy to say “I’d adopt that baby in a heartbeat” …. and then go about your normal life.  Go to your local orphanage, adopt a special needs child, THEN write about what you’ve done, and I will salute you enthusiastically. But until you put your intentions into action, I’m unimpressed.

    • Cassy Fiano

      Mark, I’m the author of this piece, and I *am* having a special needs child.  A boy with Down syndrome.  I’d also be willing to bet that, since my husband is in the military, we make a lot less money than they do.  But are we complaining?  Nope.  This lawsuit is absolutely ridiculous and their attitude towards their daughter is just unbelievable.  Down syndrome doesn’t define who a person is, it isn’t the sum total of their worth, and just because a child has Down syndrome, it does not make them defective or broken, just like it doesn’t make the parents deserving a fat paycheck.

    • KWed2b

      There are waiting lists of couples looking to adopt babies specifically with Down syndrome. And I don’t know how they came up with their trumped up cost of raising their daughter. Unless they are looking to live in a mansion and quit their jobs it does not cost 7 million dollars to raise a child with Down syndrome. I have two children, one typically developing and one with Down syndrome, in reality the cost of raising my daughter with Ds has been less in comparison to my typical son.

  • Lana

    I am so saddened by this prevailing attitude toward the unborn. Don’t people realize they are murderer’s when they consent to a “termination” no matter what is wrong with the baby in the womb. The culture of death is evil and barbaric! 

  • Michelle

    I may not have a child with Downs Syndrome, however I do have a son with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is the most loving child a mother could ever hope for. Yes there are many daily struggles and also days of great joy. My son is not broken he does not need to be fixed he needs people to accept him for who he is as do Downs children. And I hate the term “NORMAL” who are people to judge who is normal. Every child brought into the world is exactly who they are meant to be and that is what is NORMAL for them. People need to educate themselves and stop judging. What is sad is when the idiot adults pass on their stupidity onto their children. My son may look “NORMAL” on the outside but he gets stares and I do too when he has a melt down or has self stimming behaviors. I would not trade my son for the world nor would I sue anyone for not being able to tell me something might go wrong with my child. When a child is part of you you love them no matter what obstacles there are. These parents will have to face their judgment when die and to be a fly on that wall would be glorious

  • This is so sad on so many levels.  Testing for Down’s (Trisomy 21) does not always come back positive if done when done when the child is still in the uterus.  My goodness what ignorance.  If that is the case everyone with a child with a genetic disorder should be compensated. My goodness. I would adopt this little girl as fast as I could.  My little girl that I adopted is a Down Syndrome Angel who is loved by everyone, I would never think about blaming her parents or the hospital for the way she came in this world.  By all means she is PERFECT.  Just like this little girl is.

  • Anna

    I have mild autism. The parent of the child is doing this because she is ignorant.