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