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Couple sue over Down syndrome child
A Joburg couple is claiming several million in damages from two gynaecologists and from a pathologist company after their daughter was born with Down syndrome.
Frederick and Joanita Lange of Sharonlea said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that if they had known before the birth of their daughter five and a half years ago that she would suffer from Down syndrome, they would have considered the option of terminating the pregnancy.
The court will at this stage only determine whether the medical practitioners were at fault. If it is found that they were negligent, the matter of how much in damages the couple should be awarded will be determined at a later stage.
Joanita Lange said she discovered she was pregnant in the first week of January 2006 and she consulted gynaecologist Dr Johan Moller the following month.
In March, an ultrasound was performed to test the thickness of the layer of fluid which formed near the neck of the developing foetus.
The woman said she was told that all was fine and that the measurement was not indicative of Down syndrome.
She was then sent for blood tests at a pathology company, but when she got there, she was told it was too late to have screen tests done for signs of Down syndrome, as the tests were done only until 20 weeks of pregnancy and she was in her 20th week at that stage.
As her first specialist had moved, she consulted another, Dr Elna Loock, who reassured her that the chances of her carrying a Down syndrome child were slim as the condition became more common in women older than 35. She was 29 at the time. She gave birth to Imke on September 8, 2006, and the child had Down syndrome.
She blamed the specialists and the pathologist for the fact that she gave birth to a child suffering from this condition, stating they should have detected this during her pregnancy and advised her that she had the option to terminate the pregnancy. She said if all the tests had been done properly, the specialists would have detected the chromosomal defects.
She stated that the “negligence” of the specialists to “do proper tests” caused her and her husband emotional and psychological as well as financial damage.
It was stated that a Down syndrome child was in need of specialist medical care. These costs, they said, were far more than the costs incurred raising a child without this condition.
Imke would have to receive specialised medical care, physiotherapy and speech therapy as she was slow in developing and the parents had to undergo treatment for severe psychological trauma and depression, the court was told.
Lange told the court yesterday that she and her husband were first-time parents who did not know what to expect.
She said they expected the specialists to do all the necessary tests, as they trusted them.
The specialists and the pathologist deny any wrongdoing.
They are expected to present their case later this week, but stated in court papers that they treated the mother with care and diligence at all times and saw to it that the necessary tests were conducted.
And here is a commentary by a Father of a little girl with Down Syndrome.
April 12, 2012
Eugenics as a human right?
© Kurt Kondrich
Currently there is a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that all of us across the world should be watching very carefully http://www.zenit.org/article-34581?l=english . A Latvian woman gave birth to a daughter with Down syndrome, and she filed a lawsuit against her physician in the courts of her country suing for damages. The woman claimed she was not informed of the possibility of prenatal testing to screen for Down syndrome which would have given her the option to terminate her pregnancy. She asserts that she did not benefit from the "prenatal care" necessary to treat her pregnancy, and one can conclude that the prenatal care is the screening for Down syndrome, and the treatment of her pregnancy after this "prenatal care" would have been termination. She has sued for compensation due to the emotional stress and financial injury that she sustained by having a child with Down syndrome.
The Latvian courts rejected her demand after determining that the physician had offered this prenatal screening test. The woman is now submitting what she considers to be her personal injury case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and her request was filed in the name of the right to "respect for private and family life." This lawsuit has a particular significance because for the first time European judges will have to rule on the right to abortion related to the "health" of the child (in this case, one with Down syndrome). The court's decision will establish legal precedent which will determine in law whether or not there is a fundamental right in the European Union to abort a child who has Down syndrome.
The question before the judges of the ECHR is this: "Is the elimination of persons who have Down syndrome a fundamental human right?" This eugenic trend of prenatal screening leading to abortion in many member states of the European Union is already well known, and in France 96% of fetuses detected as having Down syndrome are terminated. This case would protect in the law a parent's right to end the life of preborn infants with Down syndrome as a fundamental right and will lead to the segregation and stigmatization of a specific category of human beings based on their genetic make-up. This not only denies the humanity of persons with a genetic disability it formally establishes a legally sanctioned mechanism for their elimination, and makes that mechanism available to any woman.
Declaring that a "right to terminate because of one's state of health" is a fundamental "human right" would be revolutionary, and this is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights has been called upon to decide whether or not the life of a person with a disability is worth living. The ECHR is the guarantor of human rights and fundamental freedoms and intangible higher standards of life for all European citizens, and their decisions have a particularly strong impact because they establish principles that the member States must follow.
The Court is based in Strasbourg in the Human Rights Building — a building whose image is known worldwide. From here, the Court monitors respect for the human rights of 800 million Europeans in the 47 Council of Europe member States that have ratified the Convention. If the right to eugenic abortion is recognized in the ECHR, then all of us across the globe need to be asking the question "Who is next to be targeted?" Eliminating people based on a false perception of perfection and classifying it as a "health" issue is a slippery slope we cannot afford to get on and once start down will never be able to exit.
An individual with Down syndrome has 47 chromosomes, and this court overseeing a 47 member council may well determine if these priceless human beings go from the endangered list to the extinction list. Having witnessed daily the positive seeds, light, and unconditional love my beautiful daughter 8 year old Chloe who has Down syndrome has planted in the world I can say with absolute certainty that when we all stand in front of God on judgment day we will wish we had 47 chromosomes.
May God grant us the wisdom to open our eyes to this culture of death and see the Truth of God's most precious, priceless gift — Human Life!