Medical Verdicts

Insufficient testing for thalassemia carrier?


Undisclosed Massachusetts venue

A woman of Mediterranean descent with chronic anemia presented to a nurse practitioner for a birth control injection. In the woman’s chart—which the supervising physician also signed—the nurse practitioner expressed concern that the patient might suffer from thalassemia, but the clinicians did not evaluate her condition or advise her of the pregnancy risks associated with the disorder.

Two years later the woman became pregnant. At her first prenatal visit, both her family history and blood work were noted to be worrisome relative to thalassemia. Again, however, no steps were taken to evaluate either mother or fetus.

The woman gave birth to an infant daughter who was subsequently diagnosed with thalassemia major, which requires her to undergo blood transfusions every 4 weeks and will likely shorten her life expectancy.

In suing, the plaintiff argued that clinicians should have tested the mother and father for the thalassemia trait, which both were found to have after the child’s diagnosis. Further, she claimed, tests should have been performed to determine whether the fetus had the disorder.

The defense argued that the incidence of thalassemia transmission from mother to fetus is very low and maintained the woman was aware of her status as a thalassemia carrier and knew the risks involved with pregnancy.

  • The parties settled for $900,000.
The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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