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.

References in periodicals archive ?
The statute prohibits only those suits brought by children against their parents for wrongful life.
And actions by the child--so-called wrongful life actions--are allowed in only a very few states (California, Washington, and New Jersey), and damages are limited even more strictly.
In the context of a wrongful life claim, that is a matter open to debate.
Stating that "we recognize the harshness" of the rules, the court nevertheless characterized the child's action as a wrongful life claim and denied her general damages, damages for pain and suffering, and lost earnings.
26) A wrongful life claim is advanced where the disabled child attempts to show that, had the proper procedure been provided, or had the "abnormality" been detected, the pregnancy would have been terminated.
Wrongful birth is similar to wrongful life in that both actions seek damages arising from the unwanted birth of a handicapped child.
To this end, Part I elucidates wrongful life and wrongful birth, and introduces the nonexistence paradox.
Part III gives an overview of the claim of wrongful life and argues for its abandonment.
While there appears to be some confusion over the meaning of wrongful birth, wrongful life, 13 and wrongful pregnancy, an Ontario Court in a recent decision clarified the distinction between the terms and provided the following definitions:
Being beaten or starved is disadvantageous, but it does not necessarily amount to wrongful life.
40] To date, only two wrongful life claims have been upheld.
Where courts once hesitated to consider death an injury that resulted in a valid legal claim, the now-accepted wrongful death claim has given way to attempts to gain recognition for a wrongful life tort.