John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
And I don't mean because they talk back to you, don't eat their vegetables, and sneak out of the house late at night. There is a relatively unique type of medical malpractice lawsuit, known as a "wrongful birth" suit. These suits are usually brought by parents that have given birth to children with severe genetic or congenital abnormalities. These disabillities can include, but are not limited to diseases such as spina bifida or severe retardation.  In these cases, the plaintiffs argue that the disability should have been detected by obstetricians, and if they (the plaintiffs) had known about the condition, they would have terminated the pregnancy. Most cases are settled out of court, and damages usually consist of money settlements in amounts that will allow the plaintiffs to care for their children's medical expenses.

The States are split on whether or not parents have a cause of action for wrongful birth. Twenty-eight states recognize the claims, and nine states prohibit them outright. In New York, damages for emotional stress, can not be recovered.

Personally, these types of suits make me uncomfortable. They are usually very hard to prove, and in all cases, the parents of the child will have to testify on the stand that they would have aborted their child. If you have a child with a disability, such as spina bifida, who may be paralyzed from the waist down, but is perfectly fine mentally, the child may be forced to hear his parents say he is essentially "better off dead". Furthermore, in NY, bringing these cases are essentially pointless. Since the plaintiffs can not recover damages for pain and suffering, the only damages they can recover are for medical expenses. However, there is really no point to that since in NY, there already are State and Federal programs that help parents pay for medical expenses for their disabled child.

What do you think about "wrongful birth" suits? Do you think New York should change its laws to allow compensation for emotional distress in these cases? Or do these cases also make you uncomfortable. Post me a comment - I'd love to know what you think!
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