Wednesday, October 12, 2011

$4.5 Million Verdict for Parents of Child Born with No Arms, One Leg

Via Overlawyered, I see this article from the Palm Beach Post.  Some excerpts:

After nearly nine hours of deliberation over two days, a Palm Beach County jury today awarded a West Palm Beach couple $4.5 million to care for their son who was born with no arms and one leg. 
* * * 
During a roughly two-week-long trial that ended Wednesday, Mejia and Santana claimed they would have never have brought Bryan into the world had they known about his horrific disabilities. Had Morel and technicians at OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches properly administered two ultrasounds and seen he was missing three limbs, the West Palm Beach couple said they would have terminated the pregnancy. 
Instead, they went to the hospital in October 2008, believing they would have a healthy son.
"They went from the heights of joyous expectations to the depths of despair," their attorney Robert Bergin told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday. 
* * * 
"Ana and Rodolfo Santana know their mental anguish and their emotions are not important," Bergin said. "The only thing that will help make up for their mental anguish is to know Bryan's life plan is fully funded." 
The plan, that would cost $9 million, will cover prostheses, wheelchairs, operations, attendants and other needs he will have during his estimated 70-year life, Bergin said. "It will give piece of mind to these people that no matter what happens to them, their son will be all right," said Jason Weisser, who also represents the couple.
This case highlights why wrongful birth actions are so problematic from a disability rights perspective.  Having only one limb is not "horrific" (a word the article uses twice to describe Bryan S.'s disabilities).  Certainly, a person with only one limb needs accommodations, assistive devices, and perhaps personal assistance, and our society doesn't pay for those things very well.  Some comes through private health insurance, some through public programs such as Medicaid, and some, for school-aged kids, through public schools, but there are far too many gaps.  I empathize with the parents' need to get money to pay for these things (though I'm not sure where the $4.5 or $9 million figures come from).  But a system that requires parents who wish to finance needed accommodations and assistance to convince a jury that they would not have had their child had they known that he would have had such "horrific" disabilities seems to me terrible for people with disabilities.



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