(CN) - A couple whose child was born with an extremely painful and life-threatening blood condition can pursue wrongful-birth charges against the genetic-testing laboratory that told them the fetus did not have the disorder.
Seema Khadim and Sultan Zeb are a married couple who are both carriers of the thalessemia beta trait, a blood condition that can cause moderate to very severe anemia.
The most severe form of beta thaleassemia is known as Cooley's anemia, and people with the condition require regular blood transfusions to survive. According to the complaint, "those afflicted experience excruciating pain in the aftermath of blood transfusions and the lifespan of persons affected by this disease is likely shortened."
As carriers, Khadim and Zeb knew there was a one-in-four chance their baby would be affected. According to the complaint, "after much deliberation and after seeking religious and other guidance," they decided that if their fetus was affected by the disease, "they would terminate the pregnancy at the earliest possible stage."
The parents sought genetic counseling from Laboratory Corp., more commonly known as LabCorp. After performing the test twice, LabCorp told the parents that their fetus was only a carrier. Accordingly, Ms. Khadim gave birth to a baby girl, Aleena, in August 2009.
It was soon discovered that Aleena had Cooley's anemia. She underwent her first blood transfusion at the age of 1 month. Aleena's life may be saved by a bone-marrow transplant, a highly risky and painful operation that must be preceded by chemotherapy, which may leave the child infertile even if the operation is successful, according to the court.
In a wrongful-birth suit against LabCorp, the parents claimed that negligence led to erroneous prenatal genetic-testing results.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon agreed that Zeb is a proper plaintiff since the LabCorp results impacted both parents, not just the mother.
If Zeb did not qualify as a LabCorp "patient," then Khadim wouldn't qualify either.
Because of LabCorp's alleged negligence, "Mr. Zeb now suffers his own, unique damages compensable under Virginia law, including watching his child suffer, knowing the relatively high possibility of her death because of the disease, and the financial burden and responsibility," Moon wrote.
But Khadim and Zeb failed to convince Moon to award them summary judgment, according to the 34-page decision.
LabCorp on the other hand showed that the Virginia Medical Malpractice Act's limitation on damages applies since it qualifies as a "health care provider." The company "employs or engages licensed health care providers and primarily renders health care services," Moon found.
Under the VMMA, the damage cap on claims arising out of acts or omissions is $2 million and punitive damages are limited to $350,000.