Certian Prenatal Tests may Increase the Risk of Miscarriage:
Did You Make Informed Consent?

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Prenatal testing can help parents acquire useful information about the health of their unborn child, yet some procedures carry the inherent risk of miscarriage and false positive results. Provided parents fully understand the benefits and risks involved with each test and are allowed complete freedom of choice to determine which options are best for them, prenatal testing can be empowering and useful while preparing for life with a new baby. Unfortunately, doctors often push women towards one test or another without adequately explaining the details and risks of each procedure; extreme suffering may result if the test later causes the woman to miscarry. Doctors must legally obtain informed consent before performing any medical procedure and patients always have the option to opt out.

Informed Consent Explained

In order to decide whether or not to move forward with any prenatal testing procedure, the mother and/or parents must have enough information to understand both the potential benefits and risks involved. While some patients research and study on their own, the majority rely upon medical care providers to relay relevant information before any testing is initiated. Before certain prenatal tests are performed (particularly in the case of genetic testing methods which carry a risk to the fetus), the mother will be required to sign a consent form which contains detailed information about the test. Any questions should be patiently and thoroughly answered until the mother feels satisfied. In many instances, however, women are simply rushed through the process and asked to sign a consent form with very little or no explanation about the detailed text contained within the form.

Inherent Risks of Genetic Testing Procedures

Genetic testing procedures, with the exception of a few relatively new tests which pose a higher chance of false positive results, are invasive procedures which carry an inherent risk of miscarriage. Chorionic villus sampling can be completed as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy and is able to detect chromosomal abnormalities and many inherited disorders by obtaining a sampling of the chorionic villi cells which extend from the placenta at the point where it connects to the uterus. In order to obtain these cells, a long, thin catheter is typically inserted through the woman's cervix and into the uterus itself with the aid of ultrasound. The procedure carries a one percent risk of miscarriage; this number may seem small, but for the one family in every 100 who loses a child after the procedure, the effects are devastating. The possibility of obtaining a false positive result (which may cause a woman to needlessly terminate her pregnancy) also exists.

Amniocentesis involves the insertion of a thin needle through the mother's abdomen and uterine wall in order to collect a sample of the amniotic fluid which surrounds the unborn baby. This procedure can test for numerous genetic issues including neural tube defects which are not detected with chorionic villus sampling. It is not typically performed until the mother has reached her second trimester of pregnancy, by which point the decision to abort a fetus generally creates a greater degree of trauma for the mother and family. Miscarriage occurs in approximately one out of every 200 women who undergo the procedure and false positives occur in four to five percent of cases. Additional procedural risks include the possibility of uterine infections, transmission of infection from mother to the fetus, and needle injuries to the unborn child.

Education Shown to Increase the Number of Women Who Opt Out

Studies indicate that as patients become more informed about the benefits and risks of genetic testing, more women choose to opt out of such testing entirely. Within certain families, any test which involves a potential risk to the fetus overrides the parental desire to discover whether or not the child is suffering from a chromosomal defect. Parents who would accept a positive or negative result normally feel that genetic testing is unnecessary, particularly when they are given all the available facts before making a decision. In some cases, women or parents choose to undergo testing to be prepared in the event that their child will need special care after birth, but again, the key issue revolves around genuinely informed consent.

Financial Incentives for Doctors Who Persuade Women Toward Genetic Testing

Genetic testing generates considerable billable expenses, some of which are returned directly to the doctor or caregiver performing the procedure. The financial incentives involved provide a logical explanation for why many doctors have a tendency to push women towards any and all available prenatal testing procedures. Doctors may also be attempting to protect themselves against litigation should the mother give birth to a child with a genetic disorder that she was unaware of during her pregnancy. Unfortunately, these circumstances result in many women who essentially get ushered into a series of tests which serve little to no purpose in their lives and have the potential to create tremendous harm. If you or someone you love has been forced into a medical procedure without informed consent, discussing your situation with an experienced lawyer is the best way to determine if you are eligible to receive financial compensation for any loss or injury incurred.

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