High Court Rejects "Wrongful Life" Claims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 10, 2006
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA--The High Court of Australia has ruled that that people with disabilities cannot file "wrongful life" lawsuits against their mothers' doctors for failing to inform them that their children might be born with disabilities.
The court said that it was impossible to prove actual financial damages by comparing a person's life with having no life.
The parents of Alexia Harriton and Keeden Waller filed the suits on behalf of their children. Harriton, 25, is deaf and blind and has intellectual disabilities related to an infection her mother contracted during her pregnancy. Waller, 5, has intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and seizures because his father had a congenital blood deficiency.
The parents of both children claimed that they would have ended their pregnancies if they had known about their children's disabilities. They sued their doctors for "the harm they (the children) suffered by being born in their disabled condition" along with the "needs and expenses that each has had to and will incur".
The parents sought damages including the costs for medical treatment, specialized care and housing their children.
In April 2004, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales rejected the parents' argument, noting that the doctors had not caused the children's disabilities in the first place. The court also said that putting the blame on doctors in such a case would send the wrong message about the sanctity of life, and that the parents' claims did not reflect the values held in the community.
According to Tuesday's Australian Associated Press, the Australian Medical Association has been pushing for a program that would provide long-term care for people born with significant disabilities, in order to eliminate the need for similar lawsuits.
"Wrongful Birth Lawsuits" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)