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Should You Be Able To Sue For “Wrongful Birth”?

Should You Be Able To Sue For “Wrongful Birth”?

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — after months of waiting, numerous ultrasounds and a ridiculous amount of prenatal appointments, you’ve finally gone into labor and are giving birth to your wonderful, perfect, highly desired baby.

But when your infant is placed in your arms, you suddenly realize that the child isn’t the picture perfect baby you had been assured was on the way.  In fact, the baby actually has physical and medical issues you were totally unprepared for, and now you have no idea what to do.

Should you sue?

With the advances in prenatal testing, from blood tests to ultrasounds to amniocentesis, more women have the opportunity to know early if there is a problem with their pregnancy, in order to either prepare for the additional medical issues that the family may be facing, or decide if they prefer a termination.  Some anomalies are fatal.  Others life-threatening or life altering.  All of them would have a drastic impact on families not just physically and emotionally, but financially as well.  Many would opt to continue with the pregnancies, others, to end it.  Each woman and family knows for themselves what they can and cannot deal with and are prepared for the results either way.

But a good ultrasound doesn’t always mean a perfect baby, and there is a growing number of families giving birth to unexpectedly disabled children.  As God Discussion reports, in Israel there is surge in what are being called “wrongful birth” lawsuits — legal proceedings on behalf of children whose parents claim they would have aborted if they had known about the anomalies ahead of time.

But this isn’t just happening in Israel.  A recent case of “wrongful birth” in Florida awarded a family $4.5 million in damages for a boy born with no arms and only one leg.  In the Florida case, the mother was told there was a higher risk for Down Syndrome based on her blood work, but she refused an amino out of fear of miscarriage.  She underwent two different ultrasounds, both of which allegedly showed a fetus with no deformities.  She sued both the doctor who told her that the baby was normal, as well as the clinic providing the ultrasound, asking for enough money to provide for her son’s medical needs for the rest of his life.

Obviously, “wrongful birth” lawsuits are a rare occurrence.  It isn’t very often that a woman or her family do not have full medical information to help them make a decision about what to do during a pregnancy when it comes to potential disabilities and abnormalities.  But that might not always be the case.  In April of 2010, Oklahoma passed a bill that would protect doctors from being sued for damages if the medical professionals knowingly or purposefully withheld information about potential fetal issues, in an attempt to stop women from terminating in the case of a disability or medical issue.  That law was vetoed by the Governor, but overridden by the state legislature before being blocked by the courts.

When states considering trying to legally mandate that doctors can lie to you about the health of your pregnancy, do “wrongful birth” lawsuits really seem that callous anymore?

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Photo By Scott (Regina's belly) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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207 comments

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8:58PM PST on Dec 9, 2011

You know, I just hate that you don't have a quick poll. I think wrongful birth is okay, but I won't know what others think because you don't have a poll...

10:42PM PST on Nov 28, 2011

The fact that they wanted to make it legal for doctors to blatantly lie is frightening.

10:26PM PST on Nov 28, 2011

The fact that they wanted to make it legal for doctors to blatantly lie is frightening.

12:53AM PST on Nov 26, 2011

So, anything that would be terminal, such as a severe heart defect or the likes of that would make it so that your baby wouldn't be able to live 6 hours out of the womb, then I'd say it's fair for the parents to decide if they want to abort or not.

But for downs syndrome, or missing an arm? That's not much better than committing genocide.

Here is a story about a little boy whose been a double amputee since he was a baby. Yet he participates in races, soccer, etc...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1160954/With-pairs-legs-I-feel-10-feet-tall-The-boy-7-doesnt-let-double-amputation-hold-back.html

12:36AM PST on Nov 26, 2011

This is absurd. What makes you think that just because we're advanced in medical technology that anything is perfect?

Accept the fact that Mother Nature throws curve balls, and sometimes, we, as measly humans can't keep up with it. Deal with it from there.

So if your child gets mauled in an accident when they're 6, are you going to sue the pediatrician because you didn't know your child might be accident prone? GEESH!

We aren't as perfect as we'd like to be, and life gives us situations we don't always like. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Love that baby anyway, and make the best of the situation. A physical disability isn't about what you can't do. It's disABILITY - as in what you CAN do.

I have this lady that I take care of, and she's got sever Cerebral Palsy (CP). Her mind is fully sharp, and she is self directing. While her physical body makes her pretty much total care, she lets you know what she wants. Her family once owned a hardware store, and she used to work there in the front. Anyone needing customer service would ask her where to get something. She had the store memorized, could tell you which isle, left or right side, middle, close end or far end, what level low or high, etc... Definitely more intellectually functional than many of us who were born "perfect".

Raise your child right, and barriers can come tumbling down.

3:34PM PST on Nov 22, 2011

"Should You Be Able To Sue For “Wrongful Birth”?

ANYTHING ELSE? WHAT'S NEXT?

Lawyers, they don't miss a trick.

12:28PM PST on Nov 21, 2011

Claire

You are being sarcastic about that wrongful pregnancy, right? Unless the woman is raped, a woman cannot sue for wrongful pregnancy if she willingly gives sex to her partner. I mean, the real reason for sex is actually to make children, isnt it? It is true that due to our immoral nature, we have sex for a host of other reasons nowadays, but procreation is just what the name says...pro-creation.

That is another reason why I am against abortion. How can anyone willingly go & have sex, & then act surprised & start complaining when they get pregnant? I mean, dont they know that sex is how babies arrive. The stork stopped bringing them long ago. I think that we have to start educating people on how women get pregnant because apparently it seems that they are many out there who do not how it happens.

8:59PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

I have an even better idea. How about we sue for wrongful pregnancy. After all a woman's body never actually recovers from pregnancy. The effects may not be felt for a long time but every pregnancy does damage and with each one more the effects are exponentially worse. The way an archaeologist can determine if a skeleton thousands of years old has given birth is by the scars that it leaves on the bones. Add to that the emotional commitment, money, education and career loss, the forced legal connection to the perpetrator of the conception and as far as I am concerned , we have a crime on our hands. A crime that not only cost the individuals directly involved but the community, the nation and the earth in terms of adding to the human burden that our ecosystem struggles to support.

Back on the subject of the article though, if the medical team knew of problems and chose not to reveal them in hopes of preventing an abortion, then yes the parents should be able to sue, but not for wrongful birth but simple malpractice. If the ability to know the risk has been limited then the insurance provider of what ever source should be sued for interfering with medical diagnosis and putting patients at risk. That last one we could use a lot of right now for all kinds of diagnosis.

7:34PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

William G: That is not a solution to anything. It does not solve any problems. It just takes away choice and makes more problems. Ultrasounds are wonderful, and abortions are only necessary if a pregnant woman does not want a baby. While I prefer pre-conception birth control, with seven billion people, we better control our expansion by whatever means we can while we have any choice in the matter at all.

5:49PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

This is kind of an interesting article because no one really thinks of suing the doctors. I'm not really sure if suing them is really the answer, except maybe if it costs a ton of money to get the anomalies fixed.

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