July 4, 2022

AMERICANS DEBATE CHILDREN’S “WRONGFUL BIRTHS”

Parents in Ohio can now sue doctors whose misdiagnosis leads to the birth of a disabled child whom they would otherwise have aborted. A 4-3 State Supreme Court ruling earlier this month limits the damages to the costs associated with a pregnancy and the birth of the child. Parents cannot sue for pain and suffering or for repayment of the cost of raising a disabled child.

In a New York Times Magazine review of the ethical morass surrounding “wrongful birth” suits in the US, Elizabeth Weil writes that “the moral quandary we find ourselves in pits the ideal of unconditional love of a child against the reality that most of us would prefer not to have that unconditional-love relationship with a certain subset of kids”. Ms Weil, who aborted a disabled child herself, focuses on the painful experience of Anthony and Donna Branca. Their child AJ was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, which causes severe retardation and physical disability. Eventually they won a multi-million dollar settlement with her doctor which was put into a trust for their son, after arguing that the misdiagnosis had deprived them of their right to abort AJ.

I think the reason that this topic is as loaded and painful as it is,” comments Adrienne Asch, a bioethicist at Yeshiva University in New York, “is that prospective parents want to think that they are open to loving whoever comes into their families, and they don’t want to think that they aren’t.”