The Complicated Subject Of Wrongful Birth

wrongful birthWhen a person dies as a result of reckless actions or negligent conduct, it is called a wrongful death. But what happens when recklessness and negligence contribute to a birth? The term “wrongful birth” sounds strange — traumatic birth injuries are one thing, but how can a birth itself be wrongful?

What Is Wrongful Birth?

Generally, wrongful birth claims involve a child with severe disabilities or health conditions. If a doctor does not inform the mother of the potentiality for a disease or defect, she does not have the decision to decide if she wants to carry the pregnancy to term. In some cases, when a child will be born with serious defects, the parents may make the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy, usually because they feel they cannot adequately care for an ill or disabled child, and would not be able to provide the child with a healthy and fulfilling life. Since it involves the sensitive and controversial topic of abortion, wrongful death is a tricky subject.

However, like all medical malpractice issues, it follows a basis formula:

  • A patient-doctor relationship existed
  • The doctor negligently failed to disclose to the parents the risk of having a child with a genetic or congenital disease
  • The plaintiff suffered harm
  • The doctor’s negligence caused that harm

If this occurs, it may be a wrongful birth case.

Case Example

In one example, a woman  contracted rubella, a form of measles, during her pregnancy. Her doctor misdiagnosed her rubella, claiming it was simply the result of antibiotics. However, the virus spread to her fetus, causing serious disabilities. The woman’s daughter was born blind and deaf, and suffers from brain damage and cerebral palsy. The woman argues that, had she known about the rubella and its effect on her daughter, she would have terminated the pregnancy. Because of this, she sued her doctor for wrongful birth, setting a unique legal precedent that proved parents could sue doctors for failing to disclose birth abnormalities.


As mentioned above, wrongful birth lawsuits are a tricky subject. This is not just because of its role in the abortion debate, but also because of its impact on people with disabilities. Some disability rights organizations argue that wrongful birth lawsuits send the wrong message about people with disabilities. This is because they bear the potential implication that people with disabilities do not deserve the right to live. On the other hand, advocates for wrongful birth cases believe that it presents the parents with more autonomy, and allows them to make an informed decision about what is right for their unborn child.

Wrongful birth lawsuits (along with similar types of lawsuits, like wrongful termination, wrongful conception, and wrongful adoption) are relatively uncommon. When they do occur, though, they are often fraught with ethical tension and high emotions. Wrongful births are a difficult subject. Still, it’s important to know that there are legal options following a reckless or negligent decision.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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