Could a genetic screening test during pregnancy end in a lawsuit?

Genetic screening in pregnancy is getting more detailed and accurate every day. A new genetic screening test called the MaterniT™ GENOME test has recently made it possible to screen your unborn child for every known genetic abnormality. Touted as the most advanced foetal genetic test ever, the procedure will cost from 900 pounds in the UK.

Medical advances such as these can provide us with life changing information. The problem is these complex tests leave more room for error and require more knowledge to interpret correctly. When there is more a medical provider is capable of doing, there is more that they should do. If they don’t do those things, they could be sued for negligence. If they do, but something is misinterpreted or goes wrong, things can end up in court anyway.


In a recent example, a US based couple successfully sued their physicians and hospital for negligence in performing and interpreting prenatal genetic testing for Down syndrome. The jury awarded the parents $3 million in damages after the child was born with Down syndrome.

Women and baby’s health is already a complex area that is subject to frequent medical claims. A quiz about medical errors recently revealed that obstetrics and gynecology is one of the medical specialties with the highest percentage of medical malpractice claims, as well as being one of the areas where claim payouts are the highest.

It is still an open question as to whether it is cost effective for insurers and government to pay for genetic testing. A genetic test provides information on the likelihood of a person developing a condition, but on the other hand, genetic testing is hardly as definitive as often assumed, making it difficult to use for preventative medicine.

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