AUSTRALIA, AMERICA, Aug. 6 ( – As potential parents become increasingly intolerant of disabled babies, doctors need to take a growing number of precautions against lawsuits, according to recent reports about the use of medical technology such as ultrasounds.

An article in today’s edition of the Australian paper, The Age, reports that, “the grainy images of a baby kicking around in the amniotic fluid of the womb make beautiful pictures’, but could later be used as legal ammunition against doctors,  ultrasound specialists have warned.” The warning revolves around the practise of giving parents
ultrasound pictures of their babies, pictures which may be used later as evidence in court against medics who allegedly misinterpreted the images.

Fifty lawsuits have been launched against medics in the past five years, leading some professionals to recommend that parents be required to sign disclaimers acknowledging the fallibility of scans.

The debate comes in the wake of a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia, but one of the authors of the report, Associate Professor Lachlan de Crespigny, of Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, discourages such a “legalistic” practise, arguing that the number of lawsuits is very small considering that there are about 240,000 deliveries in Australia each year with “98% of private patients [receiving] an ultrasound examination in the mid-
trimester.” The professor argued instead for a higher level of training for doctors who perform ultrasounds and an insistence on top-of-the-line equipment, which is worth about $300,000, reported The Age.

On Wednesday, The Washington Times reported on the successful wrongful birth suit launched by Deborah Campano against pro-life obstetrician Dr. James Delahunty. She argued that he did not provide all the services that she should expect in order to determine whether or not her Downs Syndrome child was disabled, therefore, giving her the opportunity to have it killed while still in her womb. She won and the doctor’s insurance company has to pay $1.85 million (it is appealing the case).

“A mounting number of obstetrician/gynecologists are being sued by patients who say they would have had abortions if prenatal tests had detected fetal abnormalities,” warns the Times. “Twenty-seven states allow wrongful-birth suits,  but other states have ruled them invalid, most recently Michigan and Georgia. … In late June, a [Michigan] appeals court panel warned the logic of wrongful-birth suits “could quickly slide into applied eugenics and the elimination of supposedly unfit human lives.”

Dr. Delahunty’s defense attorney Tom Chamsky warns that a big part of the problem is that “as technology has grown, some women think that their child’s disability is someone else’s fault.” He says the wrongful-birth field is “wide open” for aggressive lawyers “who see a new area of malpractice not yet explored.”

Indicating how the backward morality of a small minority of people can be dangerous for the whole population, Dr. Delahunty told the Times that “for 40 years, I had a good rapport with my patients, but now I look at a woman and see a potential lawsuit.” He left private practice three years ago and works as a hospital consultant, assisting pregnant women with HIV.