Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Australian High Court Rejects Wrongful Life Claims

See this article, which begins:

THE High Court has closed the door on children suing for deformities that could have been detected in the womb, saying to compensate them would devalue the life of a disabled person.

By a 6-1 majority, the court yesterday said the parents of Alexia Harriton and Keeden Waller - and not their doctors during pregnancy - were responsible for their condition.

Alexia, now 25, is blind, deaf, spastic and mentally retarded. Her mother, Olga, contracted rubella during her pregnancy and says she would have had an abortion if properly advised.

Keeden, five, suffers permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy and uncontrolled seizures.

His father, Lawrence, had the blood disorder AT3 but doctors failed to screen for it. He and his wife, Debbie, say they would have conceived with donor sperm or terminated the pregnancy had they known.

The High Court has already held doctors liable for a mother becoming pregnant against her wishes and for negligence during the delivery of a child.

But the "wrongful life" claims involved comparing a life with no life and asking whether someone born with a disability would be better off not being born. In the age of genetic testing, it was a step the court refused to take.

Justice Susan Crennan, who wrote the lead judgement, said comparing a life with non-existence to prove damage was impossible. She said it would be "odious and repugnant to devalue the life of a disabled person by suggesting that such a person would have been better off not to have been born into a life with disabilities".

You can find the Court's opinions here and here.


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