Legal aspects of obstetric sonography

A. J. Macones, A. S. Lev-Toaff, G. A. Macones, J. W. Jaffe, V. B. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The combination of rapid innovation and high risk obstetric sonography has resulted in increased potential for litigation: 80% of suits in sonography are obstetric-related. These suits come under the category of tort law, where damages are sought to compensate those whose interests have been harmed. To win a claim the plaintiff must prove that a legal duty has been breached, that damages have been incurred, and that the breach was the legal as well as the actual cause of the damage. Although it is not possible to claim that the radiologist caused the damage, damages to a living being, the fetus, are being awarded for several types of claims. Wrongful pregnancy claims are being awarded costs of the pregnancy and childbirth in cases of failed sterilization or abortion. Wrongful birth suits arise from negligent genetic counseling when the infant is born defective, and the anomalies are diagnosable but overlooked. Wrongful life suits, brought by the defective individual, are controversial for their large monetary awards, as well as the ethical question whether impaired life is better than no life at all. Only 4 states recognize these claims. Wrongful death suits are applicable where therapy under sonographic guidance causes death of the fetus. Agency law applies where an error is committed by a technologist in a radiologist's employ. It is recommended that the radiologist follow American College of Radiology guidelines for fetal surveys; obtain follow-up or a 2nd opinion in case of an abnormality; keep written notes of normal fetal structures; keep abreast of local case law and legislation; rescan patients after the technologist's exam; and document and report promptly all normal and abnormal findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1251-1254
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989


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