Fetal viability is defined at the point in a pregnancy that the fetus could survive outside its mother’s womb. This is typically 22 – 28 weeks. In Illinois, A fetus is legally considered to be viable at 23 weeks gestation, at which point abortions are prohibited except for in cases where the pregnancy puts the mother’s health or life at risk.
A pregnant woman’s doctor has the responsibility to determine her fetus’ viability. This is done through ultrasounds and in some cases, MRIs. If the doctor finds a developmental abnormality with the developing fetus, such as a congenital heart defect or muscular dystrophy, he or she may recommend that the mother terminate the pregnancy. When a fetus has a condition that would cause it to die shortly after birth or require substantial life support in order to survive, it may be diagnosed as “incompatible with life.”
What are a Physician’s Responsibilities to Expectant Parents?
A physician has the responsibility to inform his or her patients of any health risks or potential complications that can accompany his or her condition. This includes the risks associated with a pregnancy due to the mother’s medical history, age, or personal habits such as smoking or obesity. If a physician suspects that a fetus could have a chromosomal abnormality, he or she may recommend an amniocentesis, a test that accurately detects chromosomal abnormalities and genetic defects.
A physician must also make recommendations to the mother to help her avoid birth defects and other issues with the fetus. This can include recommending bed rest or a Cesarian delivery.
If a doctor find a fetus is not viable or will suffer significant disabilities after birth, he or she may recommend terminating the pregnancy. A doctor cannot make a woman terminate a pregnancy, but he or she must give the mother adequate information to make this decision for herself. Medical providers who choose not to perform abortions because of their personal beliefs cannot withhold information from pregnant women in order to keep them from terminating pregnancies. Doing so can subject a physician to a $10,000 fine or a medical license suspension. Providing patients with the information they need to make medical decisions is part of obtaining their informed consent to procedures.
Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life Claims
When a child is born with a severe condition that renders him or her unable to develop normally or results in his or her premature death, the child’s parents may seek compensation for their resulting damages through a wrongful birth or wrongful life claim, depending on the circumstances of the case.
If the mother’s doctor failed to diagnose the child’s birth defect or failed to disclose it to her, the parents may file a wrongful birth claim. Through this type of claim, families can seek compensation for the costs of raising a child with a severe disability as well as their own emotional damages.
When a severely disabled child whose birth or conception might have been prevented with more thorough genetic counseling or patient education is born, his or her parents may seek compensation on his or her behalf through a wrongful life claim. This type of claim is filed for the child’s damages, rather than the parents’ damages, as is the case with a wrongful birth claim.
Work with an Experienced Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Determining fetal viability and making recommendations to parents is a difficult, yet critical part of providing prenatal care. If your healthcare provider somehow fell short of providing the appropriate standard of care for your pregnancy and any risks you face, you could be entitled to recover monetary compensation for your damages through a medical malpractice claim. To learn more about filing this type of claim, speak with one of the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Baizer Kolar, P.C. Contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation with us.