Wrongful birth, wrongful life?
I heard on the radio today that a couple in Portland OR had been awarded $3 million because a clinic had assured them that the baby the mother was carrying did not have Down Syndrome. After their daughter was born, she was discovered to have the syndrome. The couple say that they would have aborted the baby if they had known of her condition. The couple say that they love their daughter, now 4, and want the clinic to pay for the extra life-time costs of caring for her.
It’s been reported that the couple have received death threats, which may be why their attorney insists:
that this lawsuit was not about whether or not the pregnancy would have been aborted but about the Levys’ love for Kalanit. In a statement to KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Miller explains, “These are parents who love this little girl very, very much. Their mission since the beginning was to provide for her and that’s what this is all about.”
The legal action apparently is an instance of a “wrongful birth” suit. “Wrongful life” suits have also been filed and upheld; in these, a legal guardian for the child sues someone for failing to prevent the child’s birth, e.g., by not providing accurate information on the condition of the child when an abortion was still possible. The suit asks for damages for extra care, special education, etc. Here and here are articles.
It strikes me that, philosophically, there is something odd about a person’s suing for damages when the alleged wrong is what permits the person to be in a position to file the suit (or do anything else in the course of a life)! Clarifications from others on the legal issues in both types of suit would be welcome.