Baby Born with Severe Spinal Defect as a Result of Failure to Order Simple Screening Test — Family of Child Recovers Substantial Damages

The family of a child born with a neural tube defect have recovered substantial damages in a settlement with a negligent Toronto doctor’s office after the child’s defect was not detected. The defect was not detected because the assistant in the doctor’s office did not deliver a testing form.

Mom was 34 years old. She had begun to have vaginal spotting, or light bleeding during her second pregnancy, so she was referred to an obstetrician. She diligently asked her obstetrician whether she should have an amniocentesis test to look for abnormalities due to her age and the bleeding, but the obstetrician thought it was unnecessary. As a result no test was performed.

The obstetrician drew blood on Mom’s next visit to perform standard testing, including for a maternal serum alpha fetoprotein test (MSAFP test), since it was routine to do this at 16 weeks’ gestation. However, the laboratory requisition form indicates that no such test was ordered. It was the obstetrician’s assistant’s job to transcribe the required test on the laboratory requisition form.

It was not until Mom’s seventh month of pregnancy that she even learned that there was a test that could screen for neural tube defects (the test her doctor had failed to order). In her eighth month of pregnancy, the obstetrician informed Mom of the error and that the test could no longer be performed because of the late stage of her pregnancy. He assured her there would be no complications as she was in good health.

After birth, the baby was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a severe neural tube defect, and hydrocephalus. The infant cannot walk independently, is incontinent and suffers from multiple learning disabilities. Had the MSAFP test been done in a timely manner, and had been positive as it likely would have been, Mom would have had a number of options, such as repeat testing, a more detailed ultrasound or amniocentesis to measure the amniotic fluid level.

Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.

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The above information is not legal advice. Past results of cases and recoveries by our medical malpractice lawyers against hospitals, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not necessarily indicative of future results. The amounts recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases.