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Parents Suing Doctors for 'Wrongful Birth' of Their Handicapped Son

The Short of It

The Oregon parents of a boy with muscular dystrophy plan to sue their doctors to the tune of $11 million, claiming they would not have conceived him had their doctors told them about their genetic risks.

The Lowdown

In the wrongful birth suit, Kerry and Scott Tomlinson say the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center staff in Portland failed to recognize and inform them of early signs that their oldest son, Manny, suffered from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which causes weakened muscles, and ultimately, the inability to walk, then paralysis, and premature death. The serious neuromuscular disorder, which primarily affects boys, is typically diagnosed by the age of 3 or 5, but Manny wasn't diagnosed until he was 7 years old.

Parents who have one child with Duchenne muscular dystrophy have a staggering 50 percent chance of conceiving another child who suffers from the disorder. And by the time Manny received his heartbreaking diagnosis, Kerry had already given birth to a second son, Teddy.

The Tomlinsons initial lawsuit that asked for $23 million—which included $10 million for their pain and suffering, $10 million for Teddy's pain and suffering, $2 million for Teddy's loss of earning potential, and $1 million for Teddy's care—was thrown out by a judge, who questioned whether the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center could be held liable because only Manny had been their patient.

The Upshot

Last week, an appeals court ruled the parents could move forward with their suit, but it dismissed the $12 million sought, with this reasoning: "According to defendants, Teddy alleged that he has been damaged by the fact of his existence. Significantly, defendants asserted that 'life' has not been recognized in Oregon as a compensable harm."

It's unimaginable what these parents have been through, and I won't judge them. I just worry what kind of message they're sending their son that they basically wish he was never born.

What do you think?

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