Wrongful Life

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Related to Wrongful Life: Wrongful Birth, wrongful life action

Wrongful Life

A type of Medical Malpractice claim brought on behalf of a child born with birth defects, alleging that the child would not have been born but for negligent advice to, or treatment of, the parents.

Since the early 1970s, tort actions for wrongful life have been filed in U.S. courts. In a typical wrongful life action, the parents of a child born with birth defects sue on behalf of the child. Generally, the parents sue their doctor or a medical testing company for Negligence, claiming that the failure to diagnose an illness in the mother—for example, rubella in the early stages of pregnancy—prevented the opportunity for the mother to have an Abortion. As a result, the child is born with impaired health.Essentially, the child alleges that because of the defect, he would have been better off not being born at all. To bring a wrongful life action, the defect must be one that could only have been averted by preventing the birth of the child; otherwise the child would bring an ordinary negligence action. Other types of defects that can be diagnosed early in pregnancy include Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, neurofibromatosis, and Down's syndrome.

Only a small number of states permit wrongful life actions. The many courts that have rejected wrongful life claims have cited two general reasons. First, the courts are reluctant to hold that a plaintiff can recover damages for being alive when the law and civilization in general have placed a high value on the presence of human life, not on its absence. Second, the basic rule of tort compensation is that the plaintiff is to be put in the position that she would have been in if the defendant had not been negligent. This is impossible in wrongful life actions because the contention is not that in the absence of negligence by the defendant, the plaintiff would have had a healthy, unimpaired life, but rather that if the defendant had not been negligent, the plaintiff would not have been born.

The computation of damages in a wrongful life action is based on the claim that the value of the life of the disabled child is less than the value of never having been born. The California Supreme Court, in Turpin v. Sortini, 31 Cal.3d 220, 182 Cal. Rptr. 337, 643 P.2d 954 (1982), stated that the wrongful life action is another form of a medical Malpractice action, and that recovery should not be allowed for pain and suffering and other general damages, but rather only for those extraordinary medical and other expenses incurred during the child's lifetime.

Further readings

Prenatal Injuries and Wrongful Life: Practice Guide. 1993. Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyers Cooperative.


Wrongful Birth; Wrongful Pregnancy.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"Although courts and commentators often speak of wrongful life and wrongful birth as torts in themselves, it is more accurate to view these terms as describing the result of a physician's negligence." Id.
A significant amount of scholarship has addressed the growing demand for recognition of wrongful life as a tort.
wrongful life, the issue continues to cause controversy.
The prime reason for disallowing a wrongful life action is that life, even if imperfect, is always preferable to nonlife.
(151.) See Catherine Palo, Cause of Action for Wrongful Birth or Wrongful Life, in 23 CAUSES OF ACTION (SECOND) 55, [section] 4 (West 2012).
the terms wrongful pregnancy and wrongful life, these three terms
Almost all courts have said that, unlike plaintiffs in wrongful birth and wrongful life cases, plaintiffs in wrongful pregnancy cases cannot recover the costs of raising unwanted but healthy children through the age of 18.
more disabilities; and "wrongful life" refers to a claim by a
Harriton and the conjoined case of Waller involved claims for so-called 'wrongful life,' previously derided in a leading English case as entailing the conclusion that 'to impose such a duty towards the child would, ...
Next, the book compares the different practices and laws of selective and late abortions (however, some of the discussion of abortion law in Israel, such as on pages 86, 90, 101, is outdated, as new regulations on late abortions were issued on 19 December 2007) and the treatment of wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits in both societies.
The concept of wrongful life has actually been litigated in the court of human behavior, with mixed results.