What is a Wrongful Birth?

In a perfect world, every baby would be born healthy, every pregnancy would be uneventful and every delivery would be relatively easy, short and uncomplicated and every doctor and midwife would be prepared and fully trained.

These are the expectations that every parent has but they do not always reflect reality. Some babies are born with health complications and, in some instances, doctors fail to inform and prepare parents that an infant will be born with a severe abnormality. This is called a wrongful birth, a situation where a baby is born with a serious and foreseeable health condition that comes as a complete surprise to the parents.


All women in England are offered a screening test for Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’ssyndrome at between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. It is called the Combined Test because it combines an ultrasound scan with a blood test. The scan can be carried out at the same time as the pregnancy dating scan. During the scan, the fluid at the back of the baby’s neck is measured to determine the “nuchal translucency”. Your age and the information obtained from these two test is used to work out the probability of the baby having any of Down’s, Edward’s or Patau’s syndromes.

What are Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’s syndrome?

Down’s syndrome causes some level of learning disability. It can vary from mild to severe.

Some health problems are more common in people with Down’s syndrome, such as heart conditions, and problems with the digestive system, hearing and vision. Sometimes these can be serious, but many can be treated.

Sadly, most babies with Edwards’ or Patau’s syndromes will die before or shortly after birth. Some babies may survive to adulthood, but this is rare.

All babies born with Edwards’ or Patau’s syndromes will have a wide range of problems, which are usually very serious. These may include major brain abnormalities.

Wrongful Birth Claims

Wrongful birth claims are often complicated and will centre on the denial from the parents of the opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether to terminate the pregnancy or to proceed with the birth. Parents have the right to have their baby screened and they should be fully informed that their baby will be born with a health condition so that they can be the ones to make the decision about whether to abort or not, and whether to take full responsibility for a child that will require expensive care and will more than likely endure severe health problems and disabilities throughout their life.

If your healthcare professional fails to diagnose a birth defect which should have been easy to diagnose with a properly working and operated scanning machine operated by adequately trained staff  or if they fail to offer you a screening test at all then you may be able to make a wrongful birth claim. In situations like this, damages often provide for the costs associated with the welfare and healthcare of the disabled child.

If you have been affected by a wrongful birth, please call us on 0113 284 5745 or email to clinneg@isonharrison.co.uk.  A member of our team will listen to your story and answer your enquiry in a caring and sensitive matter.

Legally Speaking Podcast

Our Director & Head of Clinical Negligence, James Thompson, discusses the sensitive topic of birth injuries and how to bring a birth injury negligence claim.

Listen to our Legally Speaking podcast on birth injuries here: