A judge last week awarded a Kaohsiung couple NT$3.6 million (US$125,205) after a mix-up over a medical test led them to believe their daughter would not have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
The couple had paid for numerous tests to ensure their pregnancy was progressing smoothly, but a lab mixed up the results with those of another couple, the father, who asked to be identified only as Eric, said on Saturday.
Although the hospital and the lab were exempt from criminal responsibility for the mix-up, the couple filed a civil suit at the Kaohsiung District Court, he said.
In October 2016, the couple paid to be tested at Kaohsiung’s New Generation Hospital to see if they were carriers of the gene that causes SMA, but the tests came back negative, which led them to believe their child would not be born with the disease, Eric said.
However, a test conducted on the day of his daughter’s birth confirmed that she had SMA, he said.
More tests confirmed that the parents were both carriers of the gene that causes the condition, which meant that there was a 25 percent chance that their daughter would be born with SMA, he added.
Eric said that the mix-up was due to professional negligence on the part of the hospital and the lab.
However, prosecutors declined to pursue charges, saying that although the mix-up had affected the couple’s decision to continue the pregnancy, it had not been the cause of the child’s condition, which was due to the parents’ genes.
The couple therefore pursued a civil case at the advice of their lawyer, asking for NT$8 million in compensation from the hospital and lab.
The hospital denied wrongdoing, but a judge on Monday last week determined that the hospital had sent another sample to the lab at the same time as it sent that of Eric’s wife, and the two had been mixed up.
The judge awarded the couple NT$1.3 million for the hospital’s negligence and NT$2.3 million to cover the couple’s expenses after Eric’s wife quit her job to care for their daughter. The ruling can be appealed.
Eric said that he was told by doctors that his daughter’s condition was similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and that she was not expected to live past the age of two.
She is three-and-a-half years old.
His daughter’s medical expenses are more than NT$100,000 per month, he said, adding that he was fortunate to be included in a Health Promotion Administration experimental drug program, which saved him the cost of four months’ worth of medicine his daughter needs.
“For me, the greatest comfort is seeing my daughter live past the age of three-and-a-half. Her condition has not yet become that bad,” he said.
Since she is not able to move her mouth, his daughter must be fed with a tube, he said.
She is also unable to walk or stand, and must crawl to move around, he said, adding that she must use an oxygen machine while she sleeps.
“I just hope her condition does not worsen, but I am willing to do anything I can for her,” he said.
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