Couple Awarded $4.5 Million For Being Denied Chance to Abort Disabled Child

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist
A jury in Palm Beach County, Florida awarded a couple $4.5 million because they missed the chance to abort their son, who was born with no arms and one leg.

Palm Beach Coast News is reporting that Ana Mejia and Rodolfo Santana were awarded half of the $9 million they were seeking for their son, Bryan, after finding the couple’s obstetrician and an ultrasound technician to blame for failing to properly read sonograms that would have alerted the couple to their unborn child’s disabilities. The Court found Dr. Marie Morel, OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches 85 percent responsible for the oversight and gave 15 percent of the blame to an ultrasound technician.

During the trial, Mejia and Santana said they would never have brought Bryan into the world had they known about his horrific disabilities and would have aborted him. Instead, they went to the hospital in October 2008, believing they would have a healthy son and went from “the heights of joyous expectations to the depths of despair,” said their attorney, Robert Bergin, during closing arguments.

Bergin said the couple wasn’t seeking compensation for their suffering, but only the money needed to provide their son with proper care, such as protheses, wheelchairs, operations, attendants, and other needs.

The jury ruled in favor of the couple but the decision is expected to appealed.

Not everyone agrees with the verdict, especially disabilities groups. Marc Sherman, Program Director for AccessABILITY Center for Independent Living, Inc., who is a quadriplegic, expressed his dissatisfaction with the ruling to PajamasMedia.

“A disability is just a natural part of life,” Sherman said. “A person with a disability has just as much worth and just as much as importance as anybody else.  It doesn’t matter what kind of disability, they have just as much worth and importance.  They should get to choose how they want to live.”

In the U.S., people with disabilities have the same rights as anyone else, he said, but this case reveals how the culture still sees the disabled as less than equal.

“The disabled have rights just like women or minorities,” Sherman said.  “This case would be the same as if these parents wanted to abort a child because of gender or race.  It’s the same thing as in China where you have women aborting children because they are females and not males.”

Unfortunately, he’s right. In the U.S. today, 90 percent of non-life threatening disabled babies are aborted, which means only one in 10 have any chance of being born. And according to a 2003 Gallup poll, six in 10 American think it’s okay to abort a child who has a mental or physical disability.

Paul Cooper, writing for Pajamas Media, raises the question of where this “slippery slope” is leading.

“Imagine if instead of a disability, six in 10 said it was okay to abort because a child is black or female? It’s a valid argument. What would that jury have done if the parents complained that the clinic told them they were having a male but they wanted a female? What would the reaction be to a parent openly saying that they deserve millions because they would have aborted their girl if they knew she was going to be a girl? Any ultrasound nurse will tell you that every once in a while they get the gender wrong.  Does this give precedence for future lawsuits?”

The answer is yes, of course it does, and sooner or later parents will sue because their baby wasn’t exactly who they planned him or her to be.

“I hope when little Bryan grows up he never Googles himself or his parents,” Cooper writes. “I can’t imagine the horror when he reads that his parents wish they would have killed him.”

He concludes: “We can dream that someday Americans will again see the value in the lives of the disabled and turn the 90 percent abortion rate around. But for now, a jury in Florida all made it clear that they believe the disabled are not worthy of life.  And missing out on the chance to kill the disabled when still in the womb is now worth millions.”

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