Parents Awarded $3 Million After Daughter Born With Down Syndrome

Deborah and Ariel Levy, the parents of a 4-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, have been awarded nearly $3 million by a jury. The Levys had sued an Oregon hospital after doctors at Legacy Health told them that prenatal tests said their child would not have the developmental disability, says KATU news. Late last week, jurors said that the “negligence of hospital workers [had] led to incorrect results.”

The couple, who have not commented publicly on their lawsuit because they are “worried about the backlash they could get over such a controversial topic,” sued the hospital for millions, the amount they say will be needed to care for their daughter during her lifetime. They contend that doctors at the hospital “repeatedly advised” them that a test of their unborn child had “definitely ruled out Down syndrome” and that other indicators were “not reliable.” The doctors, say the Levys, were “negligent in their performance, analysis and reporting.” Had they known their daughter would have been born with Down Syndrome, they would have aborted the baby.

The case brings up some very complicated issues about prenatal testing and disability rights. KATU quotes Patricia Backlar, a professor of bioethics at Portland State University, who notes the importance of prenatal testing as “you want to make sure you’re prepared as well as you can be in case something is awry.” The reading of such tests can, though be “complex,” she says. The Northwest Down Syndrome Association‘s Angela Jarvis-Holland also points out that, while there have been advances in prenatal genetic testing, there has been “no huge increase in good information on what life can be like” to raise a child with Down Syndrome.

Certainly more educational and other services exist now for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. Currently some 80 percenteven 90 percent — of parents who find out that their fetus has tested positive for Down Syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy. With fewer children with Down Syndrome now born, some parents and disability advocates have been emphasizing the positive aspects of raising a child with a disability.

In a press release, Dr. Jeff Myers, the president of Summit Ministries, refers to the Levys’ “wrongful birth lawsuit” in criticizing a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics in which two Australian professors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, argued that “after-birth abortion” should “be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” The professors cited Down Syndrome as an example, noting that ““such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.” Dr. Myers responds that such a “barbaric argument is the logical outcome of a pro-abortion stance” and that to say that a child “can be aborted—killed—because circumstances aren’t perfect will cast our society back into the eugenics debate that the Nazis exploited so effectively to kill those they deemed undesirable. ”

As the mother a child with disabilities, with autism, specifically, I more than understand the Levys’ fears about raising a child who will need care and extra support throughout her life. There is currently no prenatal test for autism as there is for Down Syndrome. I do remember the moment back in 1997 when I was expecting my son and the doctor spoke to me about Down Syndrome testing. Women need to have the right to choose. For myself, I did know that, regardless of what any testing results showed, I was having the baby I was carrying and we would take care of him.

15 years later, I can vouch that it is an understatement to say that raising a severely autistic child is difficult. We worry every day about Charlie’s future, especially after we gone. But by no means do we ever consider that Charlie is a “burden” — life with him is full of very deep joys and lots, lots of love.

Giubilini’s and Minerva’s article has sparked quite a lot of controversy. One important point that is getting overlooked in the pro-life rhetoric about eugenics and aborting disabled babies is that, right now, our society does not do nearly enough for adults with disabilities to ensure that they lead meaningful, productive lives and are not simply “warehoused” in institutions. While a child with disabilities has the right to an education thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, all of that ends when a child turns 21. Services for adults with disabilities in the US are less well-funded and, in many cases, non-existent or of such poor quality and serviced by such inadequately trained staff that many adults with developmental disabilities are left to sit at home and do nothing.

If we actually improved the quality of life for individuals with disabilities throughout their lifespans, and if we keep broadcasting a message of acceptance and hope about life with a disability, lawsuits like the one in Oregon should not have to happen.

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

id take that little baby and love her so much shed almost burst from it. from my experiences, Down syndrome kids are so much happier and sweeter and full of life. They light up every room.

pam w.
pam w6 years ago

And not making judgments? I'm pretty sure that was a big part of my old Sunday school lesson, too.

Let's see...."Judge not, lest ye be judged." Yup....

Anne Cole
.6 years ago

Michelle C., pretty sure there is no God. And if there was, there would be something in the bible about god helping those who help themselves.

pam w.
pam w6 years ago

Right....and, suppose they don't BELIEVE in your GOD? Suppose they were assured the fetus was normal and they missed the window when abortion was safe? Suppose YOU were in their shoes?'ve never cared for a mentally disabled person 24/7 for the rest of your life?

It's obvious to me that the court sided with these parents. Guess the legal system doesn't agree with your "Well God never give us more than we can handle" cliche?

Michelle C.
Michelle C6 years ago

Wow. So if something happened to a "perfect" child that rendered him/her with disabilities, what would they do? Post birth abort? Life isn't fair. God gives us what we need and can handle. Killing unborn babies because they are not "perfect" is cruel. Just as tests can give false positives, they can give false negatives. We are not to decide who is valuable and who is not.

Mandy Harker
Mandy H6 years ago

Honestly with the way that society is towards those with disabilities I wouldn't keep the baby, that's not to say if the baby was born with a disability that I'd even contemplate a 'post-birth abortion' I find the idea of post-birth abortion completely disgusting but I don't find a problem with aborting an unborn baby.
I would abort the child for the child's sake, this world is not at all a place to put someone who is even slightly different let alone someone with a major disability. I speak from experience as someone with a learning disability I've suffered all the way though life and still to this day going for jobs I'm mocked and I'm sure that I will be until the end of my life. I wish that I was never born not just because of my learning disability but also the many other physical and mental illnesses that I suffer though and thus my parents have also suffered. As a person living with mulitipul types of disabilities I can assure you aborting me would have been the best possible out come, it would have been mercy.

Gloria W.
Gloria W.6 years ago


Coral Bentley
Coral Bentley6 years ago

I feel quite upset by this. It is hard to believe that the Levys feel their daughter was a wrongful birth. Why do they still have her in their lives, if it was wrong that she was born in the first place? There are other families which would welcome their sweetling from the first day, instead of be reviled at her existence. Reece's Rainbow is just one organization involved with finding loving families for children with Downs.

I've read that the Levys love their daughter, and they just want to make sure she will be cared for. Well, where's everyone else's three million dollars? Now that someone has set the bill, who is going to pony up the resources for every other child who needs therapy? There are other families which are struggling to provide their children with the therapy they need, who also love their kids.

Finally, if there is a chance of Downs Syndrome, or any other genetic disability for which there is a test, I anticipate that facilities will inform the parents that the chances are definitely possible, thus giving a perceived inflated positive. The last time I was pregnant, I was told that with the results we had (blood test, not amniocentesis), our child probably did not have a genetic disability, although they could not guarantee anything. I'd like to know why Legacy did not make a similar statement to the Levys, or why they interpreted it as a promise that their daughter would be just fine.

I wish the Levy's luck in the future. They are going to

karen C.
karen C6 years ago

SMiLeS 4 thE chILD

Laura D.
Laura D6 years ago

I wish the Levy's well and hope they can receive justice. I hope their child will get the help that she needs. No one has any business judging this couple. They have every right to have been fully informed of their fetus's condition, if it can be shown reliably that doctors were negligent or chose not in to inform them of their fetus had Down Syndrome.Not every person has the patience or will to raise a Down Syndrome child--I have the utmost respect for those that do, but I am not one of those people, and many parents do not. Down Syndrome children are among the least likely to be adopted as well. THAT is the cold, sobering reality.

And as Catt mentioned, there are quite a few people in the US that would do away with pre-natal testing so that women can't abort their children, no matter what the disability. And you betcha those same people want to slash funds for facilities charged for caring with people with disabilities. It's funny--we have pro-lifers that want to force women to look at an ultrasound of their embryo to "see what they are aborting", yet would do away with ultrasounds or other pre-natal tests to show women what kind of children they would be bearing--lest they abort.