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Giving a whole new meaning to 'negligent'...and 'evil'

Somebody page Humpty Dumpty. Some folks in Washington State think they can make the word 'negligent', in a legal context, mean whatever they want it to mean. These stellar parents sued doctors at the hospital where their baby was born for negligence for continuing resuscitation efforts for an hour when the child was born without a heartbeat...because he survived with disabilities.

It boggles the mind.

A hearty cheer for the Washington State Supreme Court, however. I don't know much about that court, and for all I know it may have handed down lots of other bad decisions, but this time, the court did the right thing and came down on the side of the doctors.

HT Wesley J. Smith at Secondhand Smoke

Comments (8)

Well, when confronted by monstrosities such as this lawsuit, I like to ruminate upon what I would do were I an absolute monarch; and in the present case, my verdict would have these ghouls stripped of custody, yet required to pay every last cent required for the care and treatment of their son, even if they lived to see 120 and were bled white times without number.

Truly, folks like this are what damnation looks like; they are a sort of diabolical sacrament of ultimate alienation from good, beauty, and truth.

Does this mean that the child now has to live with parents who wish it were dead? I think I'd like to second Jeff's closing sentiment.


I think I can put this in perspective. Washington state is one of three jurisdictions in the country that permit a suit known as "wrongful life" in addition to wrongful birth (which is allowed in most jurisdictions)--ie. "but for the doctor's negligence in not detecting a genetic defect, my parents would have aborted me and I would not have been born at all." In other words, from the perspective of the child, he is saying that his existence as a retarded individual is worse than non-existence.

A wrongful birth action is one from the point of view of the parents, stating that they were harmed by the child's existence. Nice, but when you think about it, Roe v. Wade's existence sort of creates a public policy norm whereby parents are entitled to unfettered "choice" and that the deprivation of that choice in that regard can be alleged "negligence."

Note that these aren't my opinions, not by a long shot--but it is the logical conclusion of having constitutional abortion rights.

Don, can you give me a source to the jurisdictions that allow a wrongful birth lawsuit? I was certainly unaware that it was allowed in most jurisdictions, though I know such suits have been brought by families when the doctor didn't tell them about a birth defect detected on an ultrasound. I was under the impression that most of such suits have been unsuccessful. What is the difference between Washington's wrongful life and the wrongful birth suit? It would seem to me that they would have to be very similar if not the same, particularly given that the WA court threw out this one concerning resuscitation.

I do know that since these wrongful life suits have even been tried, women have had to sign a waiver if they do not want prenatal testing for birth defects. You have to sign a paper saying you were offered the tests and are refusing the tests with full understanding of what you are doing, or something like that. That way, if your child has an undetected birth defect that would have showed up on that blood test, they can prove they offered it to you.

I don't know for sure if the child is being raised by these parents; the linked story is the only info. I have. But I would guess yes, since I think they would not have had legal standing to bring the suit if they were not the child's legal parents at the time.

The three jurisdictions which allow wrongful life (which is the child saying "I never should have been born" b/c of this defect) are allowed in Washington, New Jersey, and California.

I'm not sure about the breakdown for wrongful birth, but it is significantly greater than wrongful life. Where I live, Indiana, even allows it, though they don't call it that. The rub is that recover is limited normally to costs of birth/hospital etc... when a doctor negligently performs a sterilization, but expenses beyond that are allowed for cases of mental retardation, deafness, blindness etc...

Turpin v. Sortini, 643 P.2d 954 (Cal. 1982); Procanik v. Cillo, 478 A.2d 755 (N.J. 1984); Harbeson v. Parke-Davis, Inc., 656 P.2d 483 (Wash. 1983).

I don't see much difference between the two torts, other than the parties allowing them. The reason wrongful birth is allowed is that our abortion jurisprudence creates a sort of "norm" whereby parents have a right to have all information pertinent to their "choice" disclosed.

I don't know the wrongful birth breakdown--I believe Michigan recently overturned precedent for wrongful birth.

69 UCINLR 1023
University of Cincinnati Law Review
Spring, 2001 (Approx. 41 pages)

I think I understand. "Wrongful life" is brought in the name of the child. "Wrongful birth" is brought by the parents directly. Both apply to the "failure" to offer the opportunity to abort. Is that right?

The difference here is that the child was already born and was resuscitated. I guess they didn't want to go to "I should have been allowed to die after birth because of this defect."

It's going to be interesting to hear what these alleged "parents" are going to be telling their child about this incident some fifteen or twenty years hence.

It's possible the child is mentally disabled and will not be able to understand. I suppose the best we can hope for here is that, despite this horrible start in life, he comes to have parents who love him, one way or another. This might even happen with the parents who brought the suit. They might learn to love him or come to love him.

What I cannot understand is why they did not place him for adoption.

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