Posts Tagged ‘wrongful birth and wrongful life’

Best of 2006: November

Best of 2006: May

Wrongful birth reaches Germany

“A court ruling which ordered a gynecologist to pay child support for up to 18 years as compensation for botching a contraceptive implant was condemned by the German media as scandalous on Wednesday. The Karlsruhe-based federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the doctor must pay his former patient, now a mother of a three-year-old boy, 600 euros ($769) a month because she became pregnant after he implanted her with a contraceptive device.” (“Doctor ordered to pay for unwanted baby”, Reuters, Nov. 15; “GYN’s “Human” Error Will Now Be Getting Child Support”, Deutsche Welle, Nov. 15). Similar: Apr. 9 (Scotland), May 9 and Jun. 8, 2000, etc.

Australia: High court tosses “wrongful life” claims

Updating our May 1, 2005 item: by a 6-1 majority, Australia’s High Court has rejected claims on behalf of two disabled persons whose lawyers argued that they deserved compensation from their mothers’ doctors for allegedly failing to provide information that would have led the mothers to terminate their pregnancies (Peter Gregory, “‘Wrongful life’ claims thrown out”, Melbourne Age, May 9).

$14 million for wrongful birth

A New Brunswick jury awarded $14 million to the Sharad family against their obstetrician, who failed to test for a rare genetic blood disorder, thalassemia major (Cooley’s anemia), that their son was born with. Newspaper coverage mentions neither the doctor’s defense nor even the words “wrongful birth.” $8 million of the award is for emotional distress, meaning the family will be millionaires even after attorneys’ fees and medical expenses. (Sue Epstein, “Couple gets millions for son’s blood disorder”, Star-Ledger, May 23). More on wrongful birth suits: Apr. 9, etc.

“Wrongful birth” roundup

Stacy Dow, of Perth, Scotland, is suing a hospital over the birth of her healthy daughter Jayde. Dow had been given an abortion at her request but unbeknownst to both her and the doctors she had been pregnant with twins, one of whom remained unharmed after the procedure. Dow told a court she suffered physical pain, distress and anxiety from the resulting pregnancy and Caesarean delivery; she also wants money for the cost of raising the girl to adulthood. (Sarah Womack, “Mother sues for birth of ‘aborted’ twin”, Telegraph, Mar. 21)(via KevinMD). The New York Times Magazine caused a stir last month with an article about a family that sued doctors over failure to recommend amniocentesis whose results would have led them to decide to abort their handicapped child (Elizabeth Weil, “A Wrongful Birth?”, Mar. 12). Ann Althouse notes an AP story reporting that there are waiting lists of parents interested in adopting Down’s Syndrome children (Mar. 10). And in the Dec. 2004 Journal of Legal Education, Gonzaga lawprof David K. DeWolf relates an extraordinary story about what happened one year when he assigned his students the wrongful-birth/wrongful-life case of Harbeson v. Parke-Davis, decided by the Washington Supreme Court in 1983 (via Childs). More on wrongful-birth suits: Mar. 4, etc.

Ohio high court OKs wrongful-birth cases

By a 4-3 margin, the Ohio Supreme Court has approved (PDF) a “wrongful birth” suit against doctors by parents who say they would have aborted their child had they not been given inaccurate genetic counseling. The court did reject the views of Justices Paul Pfeifer and Alice Resnick (as well as that of a lower court judge) who thought the damages payable should include the cost of raising the child through adulthood, plus pain and suffering. (Andrew Welsh-Huggins, “Supreme Court allows lawsuits over missed genetic disorders”, AP/Akron Beacon Journal, Mar. 3). However, some Ohio legislators are proposing to enact a law precluding wrongful-birth lawsuits; a bill to that effect passed the state senate this past week, but has not yet been considered by the house (Jim Provence, “Bill would protect doctors from ‘wrongful birth’ suits”, Toledo Blade, Mar. 1). More on wrongful-birth suits: Sept. 16, 2004 and links from there; May 1 (Australia) and Jun. 14, 2005. More: WizBang takes an extremely dim view of the parents in the case (Mar. 3).

Proximate cause, void in N.J.?

David Bernstein and commenters (Jun. 10) discuss a 1999 case (Canesi v. Wilson) in which the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a woman could sue over the “wrongful birth” of a baby with birth defects because the doctor didn’t warn her that a drug he prescribed during the pregnancy was suspected of causing such defects, even though she was unable to offer any expert testimony indicating that the drug had actually caused the defects (and scientific evidence was accumulating that it had not in fact done so).

Oz: “Wrongful life case headed to High Court”

“A disabled woman who unsuccessfully sued her mother’s doctor for wrongful life has won the right to take her case to the High Court.” Alexia Harriton, 24, born with multiple handicaps, says a doctor was negligent for not diagnosing her mother’s rubella infection during pregnancy; had the infection been diagnosed, mom would have had an abortion. (AAP/, Apr. 29). More on wrongful life/wrongful birth cases: Sept. 16, 2004 and links from there. Update May 27, 2006: court rules against wrongful life concept.

Wrongful birth (cont’d)

Yorba Linda, Calif.: The basic fact pattern underlying this wrongful-birth suit will be familiar to longtime readers of this site (Aug. 22-23, 2001, Jul. 1, 2003, etc.): little Leilani Duff’s parents say they love her, but also say they’d have aborted her if they’d realized she was at risk of spina bifida, so they’re suing their obstetrician, Dr. William Dieterich, for unspecified damages. (Claire Luna, “If Only We’d Known, Parents Say”, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9). The L.A. Times’s account includes the following comment about the incentives this burgeoning field of litigation may be sending to doctors practicing in the field:

The rise in wrongful-life suits and the threat of legal responsibility for a child’s defects puts obstetricians in the uncomfortable position of recommending, if not insisting on, abortion when there is the slightest doubt, said one physician.

“On one side you have a liability mess that puts you on the hook for the rest of the child’s life,” said Dr. T. Murphy Goodwin, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine [and also, as the article notes, a member of the American Assn. of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists].

“The other side, you have carte blanche to avoid the potential for these kinds of problems by shading the discussion to advocate abortion. There’s almost no adverse reaction if a doctor tells someone to terminate a pregnancy based on faulty information.”