The Sad Case Of Suing For 'Wrongful Birth'

News Image By PNW Staff June 14, 2017
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Cases of "wrongful birth" are becoming increasingly common as prenatal medicine has advanced alongside cold and callous humanism. 

In 2013, Brock and Rhea Wuth won a $50 million dollar lawsuit in Washington against Valley Medical Center and Laboratory Corporation of America for failing to notify them of their son Oliver's genetic defects. 

If they had known, they would have killed him before birth, thus his life was found by the court to be "wrong". 

In 2014 an Australian woman paid for an abortion but her son lived and she too sued her doctors for depression, suffering and the full cost of raising her child.

More recently, the Supreme Court of Iowa found that a mother may sue the doctor's involved in her pregnancy because they neglected to provide her with sufficient information to decide to have an abortion. 

The court found in favor of the mother's right to bring a legal challenge in a 6-1 legal opinion with Justice Thomas Waterman arguing that "the right to sue for wrongful birth belongs to parents who were denied the opportunity to make an informed choice whether lawfully to terminate a pregnancy in Iowa." 

The baby was born in 2011 with cerebral palsy, microcephaly and small corpus callosum with visual impairment and seizure disorder.

In an attempt to appear even-handed, Justice Waterman added that "parents of children with disabilities may find their lives enriched by the challenges and joys they confront daily. But under our tort law, financial compensation should be paid by the negligent physician if liability is proven." 

The legal justification is far from settled in most parts of the world, but it is nothing if unsettling and represents what many legal scholars contend is an incredibly slippery slope that seems to treat some lives as "wrong" or worthless.

In the United States, 23 states allow "wrongful birth" claims against medical professionals since abortion was made legal with Roe vs. Wade. 

The practice continues to cause no small amount of controversy in Europe as well as it struggles with an inherent conflict between a set of liberal values that prioritizes both individual choice and care for the infirm.

It was in 2010 that a Brussels Court of Appeal issued the ruling that doctors may be sued for not diagnosing "serious disabilities" in children before birth if knowledge of those disabilities by the parents would have resulted in an abortion. 

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium but wrongful life takes even that gruesome practice a step further by punishing doctors for not promoting such a course of action. 

By preventing the death of an innocent child, what is commonly understood to be the bedrock of the Hippocratic Oath, physicians are now open to legal attack by parents who would have preferred to have killed their children.

In a legal challenge, an English court in 1982 threw out a wrongful life lawsuit with the argument that to accept such a claim would "mean regarding the life of a handicapped child as not only less valuable than the life of a normal child, but so much less valuable that it was not worth preserving." 

This is precisely the issue at hand as the legal tide has turned in favor of parents seeking abortions. Today, wrongful life cases have prevailed against doctors in Canada, France, Poland, Britain, Australia and the US.

Italy has stood out as rejecting the argument that there is a "right not to be born" and in a 2011 ruling found that such claims hold no weight whatsoever, a striking affirmation of the value of life. The State of Oklahoma also recently passed legislation specifically prohibiting wrongful birth lawsuits.

There are few clearer examples of the cultural divide between those who value life and those who do not. The concept of wrongful birth or wrongful life proclaims that the lives, experiences and efforts of the disabled are worthless. 

It paints a sorry picture of a society that values so little the most innocent and vulnerable among us that it punishes those who would endeavor to save their lives rather than cut them short.

Perhaps saddest of all is the moment when a child at the heart of such a lawsuit, somewhere and someday, learns that his parents despised him enough that they would sue his doctor for allowing him to be born. 

Can there be any greater cruelty from a mother to her child?

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