Iowa Supreme Court Rules Mother May Sue Doctors for ‘Wrongful Birth’ of Disabled Child

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a mother may sue her OB/GYN and radiologist for “wrongful birth” after they failed to tell her that her child had birth defects so that she might be able to obtain an abortion.

“The right to sue for wrongful birth belongs to parents who were denied the opportunity to make an informed choice whether to lawfully terminate a pregnancy in Iowa,” wrote Justice Thomas Waterman in the 6-1 decision. “It is not this court’s role to second-guess that intensely personal and difficult decision.”

“Parents of children with disabilities may find their lives enriched by the challenges and joys they confront daily. But under our tort law, financial compensation should be paid by the negligent physician if liability is proven,” he added.

According to reports, Jeremy and Pamela Plowman—now divorced—sued Fort Madison Community Hospital and several of its medical providers after their son was born in 2011 with cerebral palsy, microcephaly and a small corpus callosum, resulting in intellectual disability, cortical visual impairment and seizure disorder.

The conditions were not diagnosed until the child was at least four month old after the mother became concerned that her son might have developmental disabilities and was directed to a specialist. Doctors now say the boy might never walk or speak.

The parents asserted in their complaint that when Plowman went for an ultrasound in her 22nd week (between five and six months), she was told by her OB/GYN that “everything was fine,” as the radiologist did not report that microcephaly—an abnormally small head circumference—had actually been detected. The radiologist rather reported the circumference as being “within two standard deviations of normal.”

The Plowmans consequently sued over the alleged failure to properly interpret, diagnose and communicate their child’s abnormalities as shown by the ultrasound. While the mother testified that she “really enjoy[s] spending time with [her son] and get[s] a lot of happiness from him,” the couple’s lawsuit also noted that she “would have terminated her pregnancy” had she known of her son’s conditions.

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The suit seeks damages for mental anguish, cost of care past, present and future, and the loss of income after the mother needed to quit her job to take care of her son—now almost six years old.

The Iowa Supreme Court, in issuing its decision, noted that 23 other states allow for wrongful birth suits, and that Roe v. Wade permits mothers to obtain an abortion before the point of viability (when current technology has the capability to keep the child alive separated from the mother’s womb).

“Defendants argue the disabled child may later be emotionally traumatized upon learning his or her parents would have chosen to abort. But given Z.P.’s severe cognitive disabilities, there is nothing in the record to indicate he will someday understand his parents sued over their lost opportunity to avoid his birth,” the court also wrote.

The lone dissenting justice, Edward Mansfield, opined that the Plowmans should not have been allowed to sue because wrongful birth suits over abnormalities could lead to a “slippery slope” that could include any medical condition.

“True, today’s decision is limited to a ‘severely disabled child.’ But the court does not define the term,” he wrote. “What if testing indicates the child will be born blind or without a hand? Is that enough?”

“The court’s decision also opens up the possibility for other claims. Can a mother sue a father for not telling her that he carried a genetic disorder, on the theory that she would otherwise have had an abortion?” Mansfield asked. “Can a father sue a mother for not telling him she carried a genetic disorder, on the theory that he would not have had unprotected sex? Can a couple that relies on an outside sperm donor sue the source of that donation in tort?”


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  • Nidalap

    Sounds like something that might have occurred during the Third Reich.
    Mother would have been upset if her offspring weren’t quite up to perfect Aryan standards…

    • Amos Moses

      it always starts with those who cannot defend themselves ….. and moves from there ……. and always under the guise of “WE are doing THEM a service by killing them. What a horrible lfe we saved them from.” …….. Margret Sangers Legacy ………… among others ……

    • TheLastHonestLawyer

      No, in the Third Reich the child would have been euthanized by the state.

      • Amos Moses

        When the Nazis entered Poland (a Roman Catholic country) in 1939 abortion for any reason was illegal. The use of contraceptives was also illegal in Poland (because the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to abortion and to contraception as well). The Nazis conquered half the country (the other half went to the Russians), and they immediately did away with the anti-abortion laws. Hitler wanted to limit and reduce all non-Aryan populations. In late 1939 a decree was issued encouraging Polish women to seek abortions. The campaign was called “Auswahlfeiheit” (“Freedom of Choice”).

        Martin Bormann, the Head of the Nazi Party and personal secretary to Adolf Hitler, wrote the following letter to Alfred Rosenberg; the Nazi Party ideologist:

        “The Slavs are to work for us. Insofar as we don’t need them they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and education are superfluous. The fertility of Slavs is undesirable.” (NCA II. Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Nazi Conspiracy and Agression, Volume II. 1946)

        Hitler himself said:

        They may use contraceptives or practice abortion–the more the better. In view of the large families of the native population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many abortions as possible. Active trade in contraceptives ought to be actually encouraged in the Eastern territories, as we could not possibly have the slightest interest in increasing the non-Germanic population.” (Harvest of Hate, 1954, pp. 273-4 emphasis added)

      • Amos Moses

        “All measures which have the tendency to limit the births are to be tolerated or to be supported. Abortion in the remaining area of Poland must be declared free from punishment. The means for abortion and contraceptive means may be offered publicly without police restriction. Homosexuality [which was illegal under Polish law] is to be declared legal. The institutions and persons involved professionally in abortion practices are not to be interfered with by police.” (Secret Nazi Plans for Eastern Europe, 1961, p.171)

      • Amos Moses

        “Every propaganda means, especially the press, radio, and movies, as well as pamphlets, booklets, and lectures, must be used to instill in the Russian population the idea that it is harmful to have several children. We must emphazise the expenses that children cause, the good things that people could have had with the money spent on them. We could also hint at the dangerous effect of child-bearing on a woman’s health. Paralleling such propaganda, a large-scale campaign would be launched in favor of contraceptive devices. A contraceptive industry must be established. Neither the circulation and sale of contraceptives nor abortions must be prosecuted. It will even be necessary to open special institutions for abortion, and to train midwives and nurses for this purpose. The population will practice abortion all the more willingly if these institutions are competently operated.” (Harvest of Hate, pp.272-3)

      • Amos Moses

        The “proud” legacy ………

        Researcher Don Feder writes:

        “With the outset of the war, the Nazis were no longer content simply to stop ‘useless eaters’ from procreating. Beginning in 1939, an estimated 275,000 Germans (insane, incurably ill, handicapped) were put to death under the Third Reich’s euthanasia program. Killing their own people, Nazi doctors acquired the mortal skills later employed in the Final Solution.” (Nazism and Abortion, p.2 online)

        During the Nuremburg Trails (in which Nazi leaders were indicted for “crimes against humanity”, 10 Nazi leaders were indicted for, among other crimes, “encouraging and compelling abortions” (ibid.). In his 1961 trial in Israel, the former Nazi SS major (in charge of transportation of Jews to concentration camps) Adolf Eichmann was charged, among other things, with “directing that pregnancies [be] interrupted [aborted] among Jewish women” in the Therseinstadt concentration camp. (ibid.)

    • Chris

      Argumentum ad Naziium?

  • bowie1

    This is why doctors have insurance against (so-called) malpractice cases – at least they should.

  • Becky

    “‘Defendants argue the disabled child may later be emotionally traumatized upon learning his or her parents would have chosen to abort. But given Z.P.’s severe cognitive disabilities, there is nothing in the record to indicate he will someday understand his parents sued over their lost opportunity to avoid his birth,’ the court also wrote.”

    Perhaps this child may never know, but God knows.

    • Michelle Rice

      Yes, GOD knows, and who’s to say this child develope far beyond the “medical opinion”??

      • Chris

        And who’s to say he will?

    • TheLastHonestLawyer

      Who gave the child these massive defects?

      • Amos Moses

        yeah …. who ………

  • TheLastHonestLawyer

    OK, let’s be clear here.

    The doctor lied. The doctor looked at a patient requesting medical information from the medical provider, and lied through his teeth. That’s it. This is malpractice of the worst sort.

    • Nidalap

      Yes. And Germans who hid Jews from the Nazis lied. They looked right into the faces of officials duly appointed over them by the State and lied through their teeth. That’s it. Treason of the worst sort…

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        Hardly the same thing.

        Let me ask you: do you trust your doctor to tell the truth to you? What would you do if your doctor concealed vital information from you?

        • Nidalap

          Well now, if I first told him that I’d kill one of my children if he gave me the truth, I’d kind of put him in a difficult spot, wouldn’t I just? 🙂

          • TheLastHonestLawyer

            Except you are adding things to the story. There’s nothing about the parents saying anything about abortion. Just that they went for an ultrasound and the doctor lied about the results.

          • Nidalap

            The actual very first line of the article.

            “The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a mother may sue her doctor for “wrongful birth” after he failed to tell her that her child had birth defects so that she might be able to obtain an abortion.”

          • james blue

            That’s how the article framed it, it doesn’t say that’s what the woman told the doctor prior to the ultrasound.

          • TheLastHonestLawyer

            Exactly. The doctor has a legal obligation to be honest about the results of any medical procedure performed. In this case, that there were observed abnormalities, and what they might mean. If then parents started talking about abortion, the doctor could tell them he can’t do that, and refer them to another OBGYN.

          • Cathy Adams

            Even though I disagree with abortion, I do agree the doctor should have told the parents the truth. He is not responsible for the choice they make.

          • james blue

            Then shouldn’t that doctor inform the client that he would no give such information and advise them to find another doctor?

      • Amos Moses

        that twoedged sword can be a mother ………..

      • Chris

        Enough with the Argumentum ad Naziium.

      • Nick Bush

        Fetus worshipers are hilarious.

    • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Cerebral palsy cannot be detected through an ultrasound. That’s what the parents are suing over – cerebral palsy.

      • james blue

        From the article- “born in 2010 with cerebral palsy and other conditions that doctors say might leave him without the ability to ever walk or speak.

        The parents asserted in their complaint that when Plowman went for an ultrasound in her 22nd week (between five and six months), she was told that “everything was fine,” when “head abnormalities” had actually been detected.

        It wasn’t just CP.

        • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          The lawsuit should have been more specific. Perhaps it was and the reporting is poor, but what we have to go on is sketchy.

      • Bob Johnson

        From the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, “as shown in the ultrasound. Z.P. suffers from cerebral palsy, microcephaly, intellectual disability, cortical visual impairment, and seizure disorder.”

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    What an evil ruling. Disabled children have rights to life. Doctors should have rights to have the Christian conscience. Doctors will join the parents for killing even a healthy child in womb.

    • tatoo

      How many disabled children have you helped? You have a big mouth and a small heart.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      In case you weren’t aware, abortion is legal in this country.

      • Robert

        In case you did not know most of Iowa still is christian that Judge will be gotten rid of like those others that were for abortion.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          So judges who uphold the law need to go?

          • Oboehner

            Since only Congress can make law, those judges are usurping the law – an impeachable offense.
            BTW one court case does not law make no matter how many idiots think it does.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            So you want to impeach judges who uphold Supreme Court rulings??? I’m so glad we don’t live in the lawless anarchy that you would prefer.

          • Oboehner

            LOL, So if any one who wishes to make a law is denied, then we a a lawless society? How about the duly passed laws in accordance to the Constitution, those enough for you?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Now you’ve lost me completely. What in the world are you talking about?

          • Parodyx

            Please let me know when you find out.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            We’ve crossed from plain old wrong to Not Even Wrong territory.

          • Oboehner

            And you passed law school? Just between you and me, did you cheat at all or…

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, in law school I simply had the advantage of only being tasked with reading and interpreting texts that were coherent.

          • Parodyx

            What law school did you graduate from? Forgive me for not asking earlier.

          • Grandhuff

            These six judges were not upholding a Supreme Court ruling. They MADE a new law. That new law was: Parents may sue the OB/GYN and radiologist for “wrongful birth” if birth defects were not diagnosed via ultrasound. In this case, the diagnosis was not made until the child was 4 months old. The size of the baby’s head was not even an issue after the child was born. The parents and the medical staff did not notice any visble abnormalities AFTER the child was born. How could they have been expected to be noticed during an ultrasound? All of this is beside the point anyway. The point is, as stated by Oboehner above; only Congress can make law.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            The parents didn’t, the doctor did. That’s the whole point of this lawsuit. The doctor noticed abnormalities but lied to the parents and said everything was fine.

          • Ollie Octopus

            You talk and think like an ambulance chaser.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            That’s not really a response.

          • Bob Johnson

            But since it is your moniker, it is after all and despite the negative connotation, a person who defends the “little guy” against malpractice, fraud, and criminal negligence.

        • Chris

          There is a little thing called ‘tyranny of the majority’. That seems to be what you’re suggesting.

          • Nick Bush

            I hope you’re for the legalization of same sex marriage if you’re going to use that argument.

          • Chris

            I am. I have no problem with SSM.

        • Ollie Octopus

          Robert: What if your mother had believed in abortion?

          • Grandhuff

            Ollie Octopus—? Robert is opposed to abortion.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Abortion is Nazi-evil and Americans should not abort children.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Legality does not matter if it’s evil. Western Sodom needs the Holy Bible to cherish life and live with sane morality.

      • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        So was slavery at one time.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Yes, and?

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Something being legal doesn’t make it just.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Okay. I didn’t say it did.

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            But that was the crux of your argument.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No it isn’t. The crux of my argument is that judges have to uphold what is legal, regardless of what is “right,” “fair,” “holy” or any other irrelevant ideal.

          • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            So you think judges in Nazi Germany should have followed whatever the law said, since it was the “law”?

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Yes, but it would have been even better if they resigned.

          • Bob Johnson

            So much either / or thinking. The world is so full of more than two choices for any given problem.

    • Robert

      IOWA was able to get rid of three othter supreme court judges just like this one. He will be gotten rid of to

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Judges should be replaced by Bible-literate AIs. Liberal activists are altogether unjust.

        • Nick Bush

          Anyone who supports a theocracy is inherently anti-American, so get out of my country, theocratic scum.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            America was born and raised theocracy and needs it. If no Christianity, America has no morality and ruins children with homosexual immorality.

          • Nick Bush

            I honestly hope you’re sterile, because the world does not need more brainwashed people.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Childless gay West brainwashes people to live out the insane immorality; that’s how they try to take control and reduce the human population on earth. The West needs Judeo-Christian values to become sane and moral again.

          • Nick Bush

            Are you a troll or are you really that insane? You sound like the Christian version of an ISIS supporter.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            The West is too immoral. ISIS massacres whoever does not comply, and Gay West corrupts mankind with depravity. Both are bad; the West needs Christianity to be moral. Immoral Non-christian Western men cannot protect the homeland; they have no will to protect anyone or anything because they are drug addicts. Drug addicts even endanger their own tribal women and children in women’s restrooms. Westerners need Christian faith for salvation and to become sober.

          • Nick Bush

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            No establishment of religion, you anti-American piece of trash. What you’re suggesting directly contradicts American values. You are a traitor and an enemy of the United States.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Westerners are illiterate barbarians like the rest if they had no Christianity. The concept of human rights and fredom is from the Holy Bible alone. American Founding Fathers expected everyone to be Christian moral in creating the US constitution. Liberals are the Anti-Americans who were sent to USA to corrupt and destroy the nation.

            The Russians rather love America more than American liberals do. American liberals desire to see the USA destroyed because they have no descendants to continue their name. The entire world will remember the Sodomic Western liberals as the destroyers of the Western civilization. God bestows His justice upon the earth. Read Psalm 14 and John 3 and repent of your sins.

          • Nick Bush

            You do know that if homosexuality were allowed that not everyone, or even a significant portion of the population will be gay, right? People will still be making babies. Your parents should be thrown in prison for abusing you and denying you an education.

    • Nick Bush

      Yes, let’s force children to be born intoa world where they know nothing but pain! Christian love at its finest!

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Children suffer because Western pervs educate them to become hopelessly immoral. Children have rights to morality and innocence.

  • balloonknot9

    A little food for thought here. We cannot assume that the parents were JUST cold hearted, selfish people unwilling to love a disabled child. There is also the life long implications such as care for the child and what that fully entails.

    Are people willing to fund programs that help parents raise children in need of not only expensive healthcare (heaven forbid they lose it), the specialized care and equipment for daily needs, the modifications of their house to accommodate those needs, the support to allow the parents to even be able to go to the supermarket if the child/adult cannot go. I am fully against aborting disabled babies, but what I want to press upon people is that we as a society, country, are not accepting of helping people raise disabled children.

    People want to remove SSDI, medicaid, ACA, all the assistance programs we have now because people don’t want to pay for other people. If people want to end this form of “selective” birth there has to be support services for them. Parents of healthy babies know the cost of raising them, even when both parents work. With a disabled child now only one needs to make enough. I am hoping that this suit is more about getting money to raise their child ( it’s a cold hard fact), than about abortion. As they themselves get older, they are not going to be able to even do the same level of care for their child as a 60yr old will not be able to lift an adult to toilet, shower, get into bed.

    Those nursing facilities for people with such debilitating conditions are astronomical. Then of course you have to wonder, will one parent abandon the other because he/she cannot take it any more. These are the facts people, the ugly truths of life, now ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice for these children.

    • Jason Todd

      We cannot assume that the parents were JUST cold hearted, selfish people unwilling to love a disabled child.

      Absolutely false. If there weren’t any truth in the allegations of selfishness, then why are they suing? They are saying if they had known the child was disabled, they would have gotten an abortion. They did not wish to deal with the inconvenience of a disabled child, so they killed the inconvenience.

      • balloonknot9

        ” I am hoping that this suit is more about getting money to raise their child ( it’s a cold hard fact), than about abortion.”

        When you are faced with something where you cannot even provide the care required you will take whatever avenue is available. Don’t let the “reason” be the only answer because in order to even get a suit they have to come up with a plausible cause. The amount of sacrifices this family has to make, has no comparison.

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        They are suing because their doctor withheld vital medical information from them, this preventing them from making informed decisions about what paths to take.

    • Cathy Adams

      All of your points are valid. If we are against abortion then we must support parents in these situations They do need hep with finances, medical care, and help as a caretaker. All those responsibilties take a toll on even the strongest , caring, and loving parent. The church should be at the front of helping out in those cases Lon Solomon, a pastor in Washington DC, wrote a book on how churches should help families with difficult cases like this.

  • james blue

    Of late one anti abortion tactic has been to mandate ultrasounds under the guise of the mother’s “right to know” all information before making a decision. Apparently conservatives think that “right to know” should be limited.

  • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Cerebral palsy cannot be detected via an ultrasound. Are they sure they have the right diagnosis for their child? Are they perhaps suing the wrong doctor?

    • james blue

      CP is just one of the issues the child has, the article also points to “head abnormalities”that had been detected and kept secret.

      • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        It falsely associates head abnormalities with cerebral palsy. There has to be more to the story. It’s either poorly reported or the parents are clueless.

        • james blue

          I’m going with poorly reported only because they highlight the CP and downplays the other issues.

  • Robert

    Plato would place the blame on the USA. For not having a proper mating program in place
    .Stanford university the darling of the world’s modern eugenics philosophy,s Would agree a need for a superior race ,Hitler being won over by Stanford’s philosophy on eugenics and its quest for a superior race would agree next ,the Rockefeller foundation being more Nobel put their money where their mouth was financing Jospf Mengele Experiments on helpless humans .. And now we have yet another American who agrees a Judge . BUT God died for all making all his priceless treasure his blood bought treasure.

  • Oboehner

    What next, gas chambers at the Special Olympics?

  • MCrow

    So…my issue with this is that the doctor withheld information that removed information. If a child has severe disabilities, it is in that child’s interest to inform the parents early. That gives them time to prepare, get the support they need, and ready their home if they choose to continue. This child is going to deal with a lot of problems early on and is already disadvantaged because this doctor chose to assume these people would violate his morality.

  • http://www.askanaddictioncounselor.com Todd Branston

    Decent ruling. Parents should have been informed and given the opportunity to decide. Judge made the right choice,. I hope the parents win the suit

  • Jerry Del Vecchio

    And Congress wonders why medical insurance premiums and medical costs are out of sight? Tort reform is needed throughout the whole system. Let’s stop these class action and frivolous suits that only make the lawyers rich.

    • Bob Johnson

      So your doctor lying to you is frivolous?

  • Dianne

    The short film Psalm 139 was powerfully awesome! Praise the Lord. I hope and pray that the mother of this disabled and special child will someday see her son and their situation through the eyes of Christ.

    Ecclesiastes 11:5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.