His parents say they would have aborted little Oliver Wuth, now 5, had they been given proper genetic counseling. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
We’ve covered a number of cases over the years in which parents sue physicians and others over the “wrongful birth” of perfectly healthy children, demanding, as part of the claimed damages, the cost of raising the youngsters to adulthood: May 9, 2000 (Phoenix), Jun. 8, 2000 (Revere, Mass., outside Boston), Apr. 9, 2006 (Scotland), and Nov. 1, 2006 (Germany). Many such cases arise from failed sterilizations or other efforts at birth control, but a new suit by Jennifer Raper of Boston against Planned Parenthood and two doctors claims that an abortion went awry. “The [Massachusetts] high court ruled in 1990 that parents can sue physicians for child-rearing expenses, but limited those claims to cases in which children require extraordinary expenses because of medical problems, medical malpractice lawyer Andrew C. Meyer Jr. said. Raper’s suit has no mentions of medical problems involving her now 2-year-old daughter.” (“Boston woman sues for child-rearing costs after failed abortion”, AP/Boston Globe, Mar. 7; Jonathan Saltzman, “Suit seeks compensation for botched abortion”, Boston Globe, Mar. 7). More: “One day Jennifer Raper’s daughter will punch her mother’s name into Google and discover that she was the result of ‘a failed abortion.'” (Taranto)
“A court ruling which ordered a gynecologist to pay child support for up to 18 years as compensation for botching a contraceptive implant was condemned by the German media as scandalous on Wednesday. The Karlsruhe-based federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the doctor must pay his former patient, now a mother of a three-year-old boy, 600 euros ($769) a month because she became pregnant after he implanted her with a contraceptive device.” (“Doctor ordered to pay for unwanted baby”, Reuters, Nov. 15; “GYN’s “Human” Error Will Now Be Getting Child Support”, Deutsche Welle, Nov. 15). Similar: Apr. 9 (Scotland), May 9 and Jun. 8, 2000, etc.
A New Brunswick jury awarded $14 million to the Sharad family against their obstetrician, who failed to test for a rare genetic blood disorder, thalassemia major (Cooley’s anemia), that their son was born with. Newspaper coverage mentions neither the doctor’s defense nor even the words “wrongful birth.” $8 million of the award is for emotional distress, meaning the family will be millionaires even after attorneys’ fees and medical expenses. (Sue Epstein, “Couple gets millions for son’s blood disorder”, Star-Ledger, May 23). More on wrongful birth suits: Apr. 9, etc.
Stacy Dow, of Perth, Scotland, is suing a hospital over the birth of her healthy daughter Jayde. Dow had been given an abortion at her request but unbeknownst to both her and the doctors she had been pregnant with twins, one of whom remained unharmed after the procedure. Dow told a court she suffered physical pain, distress and anxiety from the resulting pregnancy and Caesarean delivery; she also wants money for the cost of raising the girl to adulthood. (Sarah Womack, “Mother sues for birth of ‘aborted’ twin”, Telegraph, Mar. 21)(via KevinMD). The New York Times Magazine caused a stir last month with an article about a family that sued doctors over failure to recommend amniocentesis whose results would have led them to decide to abort their handicapped child (Elizabeth Weil, “A Wrongful Birth?”, Mar. 12). Ann Althouse notes an AP story reporting that there are waiting lists of parents interested in adopting Down’s Syndrome children (Mar. 10). And in the Dec. 2004 Journal of Legal Education, Gonzaga lawprof David K. DeWolf relates an extraordinary story about what happened one year when he assigned his students the wrongful-birth/wrongful-life case of Harbeson v. Parke-Davis, decided by the Washington Supreme Court in 1983 (via Childs). More on wrongful-birth suits: Mar. 4, etc.
Yorba Linda, Calif.: The basic fact pattern underlying this wrongful-birth suit will be familiar to longtime readers of this site (Aug. 22-23, 2001, Jul. 1, 2003, etc.): little Leilani Duff’s parents say they love her, but also say they’d have aborted her if they’d realized she was at risk of spina bifida, so they’re suing their obstetrician, Dr. William Dieterich, for unspecified damages. (Claire Luna, “If Only We’d Known, Parents Say”, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9). The L.A. Times’s account includes the following comment about the incentives this burgeoning field of litigation may be sending to doctors practicing in the field:
The rise in wrongful-life suits and the threat of legal responsibility for a child’s defects puts obstetricians in the uncomfortable position of recommending, if not insisting on, abortion when there is the slightest doubt, said one physician.
“On one side you have a liability mess that puts you on the hook for the rest of the child’s life,” said Dr. T. Murphy Goodwin, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine [and also, as the article notes, a member of the American Assn. of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists].
“The other side, you have carte blanche to avoid the potential for these kinds of problems by shading the discussion to advocate abortion. There’s almost no adverse reaction if a doctor tells someone to terminate a pregnancy based on faulty information.”
The CBS show takes a look at the Jade Fields case from New Jersey, which we covered last July (Jul. 1-2, 2002; Aug. 22-23, 2001 and links from there). The show interviews an ultrasound specialist who “has testified as an expert witness in many wrongful birth cases for both doctors and patients” and who appears to doubt that the doctors’ supposed inattention to danger signs was in fact malpractice. Also on camera is the girl’s mother who insists that “Jade is the best thing that could have ever happened to us” but also says in the lawsuit that she would have aborted the girl in a moment had the extent of her disabilities been clear. The show gives the plaintiff’s lawyer the last word (CBS News, “Is ‘Wrongful Birth’ Malpractice?”, Jun. 23).
- “Texas Bill Would End ‘Wrongful Birth’ Suits Against Doctors” [Insurance Journal, earlier on wrongful birth]
- Worse outcomes mean more risk of being sued: “Doctors are refusing to operate on smokers.” [Karen Garloch, Charlotte Observer/Macon Telegraph]
- 2015 breakdown by state of medical malpractice suits per capita and aggregate payouts (the latter not broken down per capita, but with Northeastern states, as usual, far overrepresented) [Becker Hospital Review] Note: figures challenged, see comments;
- “…and the medical board voted to dismiss the complaint against you.” [Birdstrike, White Coat]
- Britain considers limiting cost (legal fee) awards in lower value medical claims [John Tingle, Harvard “Bill of Health”]
- Will not surprise those who’ve been around: pharma cos. might fight attempts at easing FDA drug introduction rules [Bloomberg] Muscular dystrophy patients can see the case for drug importation [Alex Tabarrok who is interviewed on the subject by Robert Gebelhoff] Related on FDA: Ronald Bailey, Reason.
- Hit by stray bullet, wakes from anesthesia fighting, hospital told to pay $17 million [Georgia; Insurance Journal]
- Study: physician’s previous paid claims history has no impact on odds of catastrophic med-mal payout [Bixenstine et al, JHQ via PoL] Overall, med-mal payouts have fallen steadily in past decade; $3.6 billion figure last year follows strongly regionalized pattern with top per capita figures all in Northeast [Diederich analysis of annual payouts via TortsProf] Florida law now requires that testifying medical witness be in same specialty as defendant [Business Week]
- In lawsuits alleging “wrongful birth,” what’s the measure of damages? [Gerard Magliocca, Concurring Opinions]
- ObamaCare exchanges in D.C., California and Connecticut declare smoking “pre-existing condition,” say insurers can’t base higher rates on it [Kevin Williamson, NR]
- “The Crime of Whitening Teeth with Over-the-Counter Products” [Caleb Brown, Bluegrass Institute]
- How not to die: Jonathan Rauch on end-of-life overtreatment [The Atlantic]
- “I’m going to start a rumor that Sudafed is an abortifacient. Then the feds will finally have to allow reasonable access to it.” [me on Twitter]
- “Table Saw without ‘saw stop’ technology defective: First Circuit” [George Conk, Ted Frank, earlier here, here]
- Court OKs burned patron’s flaming-rum suit against Bacardi [Reuters]
- Feds won’t pursue Title IX complaint against 60 Oregon school districts [Oregonian]
- IRS putting the squeeze on small tax preparers [WaPo]
- How the incinerator (and decades of bad decisions) bankrupted Harrisburg [Bond Girl]
- “The most thoughtful, reasonable guy in the whole symposium” — aw [Greenfield on law licensing, earlier] P.S. And similarly from David Lat;
- Adam Freedman and readers on Florida “wrongful birth” case [Ricochet, earlier]