March 1, 2024

Australian court rejects ‘wrongful birth’ claim

The concept of ‘wrongful birth’ has suffered another defeat, this time in Australia.

Debbie Waller and her son Keeden

The concept of ‘wrongful birth’ has suffered another defeat, this time in Australia. A New South Wales couple has lost a case in which they sued an IVF specialist for failing to indicate their child’s chance of a disability. 

Lawrence and Debbie Waller lodged the claim against Dr Christopher James, a gynaecologist who helped them conceive their son by IVF. They claim that Dr. James did not inform them of the 50% chance that their son would inherit a rare blood-clotting condition, antithrombin deficiency.

A few days after birth in August 2000, their son Keeden had a stroke which left him disabled for life. The Wallers claimed the stroke occurred partly because of a blood-clotting condition inherited from his father. 

The judge concluded, based on evidence from medical expert called by the defendant, that Keeden’s antithrombin condition ”at most was a minor contributing factor and was possibly irrelevant to the outcome”. The Wallers had claimed $10 million in damages.

Courts around the world have been very reluctant to recognise claims of “wrongful birth” as this would require them to admit that non-existence is superior to existence. It is yet to be recognized as a cause of action in 25 US states. However, in some US state courts significant damages have been awarded to parents making such claims. 

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
wrongful birth