Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary
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Can There Be a “Wrongful Birth?”

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2013 Dec 20

We’ve all heard of “wrongful death” lawsuits – a civil action where someone seeks damages against a party for causing a person’s demise.

Well, there’s a new trend gathering steam: the “wrongful birth” lawsuit.

But … can there even be such a thing?

Apparently some people think there is. Parents who paid for prenatal screening for genetic abnormalities ultimately had children born with conditions that had gone undiagnosed. A handful of these parents have contended in court that, had they known of the disabilities their preborn children had, they would have aborted rather than carried the children to term.

That’s where the “wrongful birth” part comes in.

The latest story in this trend comes from Seattle. A jury awarded a couple $50 million because their son was born with “profound mental and physical disabilities” when genetic tests didn’t catch a rare genetic defect. There are other similar cases.

  • A Florida couple was awarded $4.5 million in 2011 after having a baby born with no arms and one leg. While the toddler is happy, the parents allege his future is bleak.
  • A woman from Australia sued after giving birth to a healthy baby girl after her attempted abortion left one twin alive. She wants compensation to cover the “financial burden” of raising her daughter.
  • A Tampa couple who already had a child with severe disabilities won $23.5 million after suing a geneticist who told them “future pregnancies should produce healthy children” and their second son had near identical birth defects to his older brother.
  • A Canadian doctor was found guilty of “wrongful birth” after failing to diagnose that a preborn child had Down syndrome.

Do these cases leave a pit in your stomach as they do mine?

As we know, there are times when the law runs counter to biblical truth. That’s why I don’t think there is such a thing as “wrongful birth.” Not when every child that is born has been known and loved by an almighty God before the very foundation of the world.

Most parents of children with special needs will tell you that, despite the many challenges they face on a daily basis, the love and lessons that come along with raising these children make everything more than worth it. But here is part of the problem: in today’s culture, children are too often seen as commodities.  Something we "order" or customize like a coffee or a new car.  And so when they arrive "damaged" or with the possibility of less than perfection, the thought carries over to our kids.  Yet children are a blessing; not a guarantee of service or product delivery.  "Gifts" come from the giver, not our design. 

The irony of ironies is this: abortion isn’t considered to be a “wrongful death” – though that’s exactly what it is – and yet somehow the birth of a child with special needs qualifies as wrongful?

To the lawyers and judges with ears to hear, please hear this: our defects don’t detract from our inherent worth.

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