The debate over the best time to have a child just got more heated, as one new study has found that birth defects have risen thanks to a combination of older women choosing to have children and the use of in vitro fertilization techniques.
A study by the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies found that the number of babies born with birth defects has risen by 50% since the 1980s. With multiple births, risk of birth defects was 27% greater than in single births. Researchers discovered this information by analyzing information from 5.4 million births across 14 European countries, between 1984 and 2007.
Although noting that "more research needs to be done," the researchers stated that these increases may be explained by the increased use of in vitro fertilization techniques and by the higher maternal age. Their findings and others like them may serve to increase the level of anxiety older women may feel about giving birth. Another study published by researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba looked at the attitudes of women in their mid-thirties and older. What it found was that women 35 years or older had a much higher perception of risks compared to women in their twenties, including the risk of a Caesarian birth, risk of dying during pregnancy, the risk of a child born with a birth defect, or the risk of a premature birth. Researchers cautioned that discussions of risk should be incorporated into pregnancy discussions in order to reduce women's anxiety and help them make more informed decisions.
The age of the mother is not the only factor in determining birth defect risk. Studies have shown that the father's age poses a heightened risk as well. In a conversation about pregnancy, if any physician fails to have a conversation with a patient about these potential risks, could the physician be sued for medical malpractice? A physician typically has a duty to inform the patient of all the risks concerning a specific course of treatment. That way, the patient can make a decision knowing all of the facts.
However, does this duty extend to a general discussion about pregnancy? It would if the couple seeking to become pregnant decided to use in vitro fertilization. But what if the couple wanted to conceive and deliver through natural means? Medical malpractice generally applies to any act or omission a physician makes that causes treatment to not meet an accepted standard, and results in the patient's injury or death. What qualifies as medical malpractice can vary from state to state, even county to county, so you should review the laws of your state before proceeding with any lawsuit. Depending upon where you live, you might be able to make the following successful argument: by not mentioning age as a risk factor in pregnancy, your physician provided you with substandard care, which resulted in your child being born with a birth defect.
The birth defect attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have successfully represented clients in birth defect lawsuits for more than 35 years. If your child suffers from a birth defect that you believe could be due to your physician committing medical malpractice, please contact us today by calling (800) 400-8182, or submit our online Contact Us form.