Medical Malpractice

World Down Syndrome Day

  • World Down Syndrome day is March 21
  • Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that's recognized as the most common cause of intellectual disability or "mental retardation"
  • Millions of people all over the world have Down Syndrome
  • Parents of children born with Down Syndrome may have medical malpractice claims against their health care providers
  • Children and adults with Down's have the same basic rights as you or I
  • On March 21, or any other day, make a difference in someone's day


Illnesses don't discriminate. They can hit anyone, anywhere, regardless of country, race, or sex. A good example is Down Syndrome.

World Down Syndrome

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. It's meant to educate the general public about this condition and the people it afflicts. For example:

  • What is it? It's genetic condition. In the vast majority of cases, it's when someone is born with an extra chromosome - a major component of our cells. Normally, each cell has two pairs of 23 chromosomes, and they're numbered. People with Down's usually have an extra third pair of chromosome 21 (this is called "trisomy").

Worldwide, millions of people have Down Syndrome, and thousands die each year.

  • In the US, Down Syndrome occurs in about 1 of every 800 births; that's about 6,000 births per year. About 400,000 people in the US have Down's.
  • Women over 35 years old have a greater chance of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome. However, younger mothers who smoke and have other risk factors have increased risk as well. Down's occurs in less than 1 in every 1,000 births for women under 30; it's about 1 in every 25 births where the mother is 45 years old or older.
  • Symptoms, other than mental retardation, usually are physical characteristics, such as decreased muscle tone, upward slanting eyes, a flattened nose, a smaller-than-average head, including small ears and mouth.

Screening and Testing

A pregnant woman can undergo screening and diagnostic tests. Screenings are used to determine the risk factors of having a Down's baby. Blood tests and ultrasounds are commonly used. These tests don't, however, tell you if your baby has Down Syndrome.

Diagnostic tests can tell you whether the baby actually has Down's. The most common test is amniocentesis. This is where a small amount of the fluid surrounding the fetus in the womb is extracted by a needle. The fluid is then tested for the presence of various types of birth defects, including Down Syndrome.

Misdiagnosis may lead to legal problems. If, for example, a doctor or other health care provider fails to detect Down's after screening and diagnostics, and the baby is born with the Down's, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.

Why sue? In simple terms, it's not easy for everyone to care for a child with Down Syndrome. It can be stressful and expensive. In most cases, people with Down's suffer from all sorts of medical complications, such problems with their ears and eyes, heart defects, and obesity. In addition, many people with Down's require some form of long-term care or attention, sometimes for their entire lives. The idea behind a malpractice lawsuit is to help the family pay for these and other costs they weren't anticipating.

Legal Rights

Someone with Down's enjoys the same legal rights as you and I. For example, like anyone else, a student with Down's is entitled to a free public education. What's more, she's entitled to special education services tailored to her specific needs.

She also can't be fired or denied a job because of her disability - so ,long as she's otherwise qualified to do the job. For instance, while someone with Down's may not be qualified to drive a cab, she may be able to bag groceries or stock shelves at your local store.

These are just a couple of examples of how the law tries to make sure people with Down's are treated just as fairly as anyone else. If someone you know is being treated unfairly because he has Down's Syndrome, don't hesitate to talk to an attorney.

It should go without saying that people with Down's are entitled to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. This March 21, as you go about your normal routine, smile and say "Hi" if you come across someone with Down Syndrome. Better yet, try to do so even if it's not March 21. It may not always seem like it, but that small gesture can have a big impact.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • How can we make sure our child with Down's is taken care of after our deaths?
  • Our baby has Down's, but my wife and I weren't told about Down's and the screenings and tests when she was pregnant. Do we have a lawsuit? Should we sue?
  • My child with Down's is being "bullied" on the school bus. What can I do?
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