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Wrongful birth lawsuits spark a heated debate

A medical error can often have grave consequences. When people in North Adams are victims of medical negligence, the result can be a worsened condition or even death. In a new trend, parents are upset that a medical error is actually leading to life. A hot-button issue regarding so-called “wrongful birth” has pitted advocates for the disabled against families with concerns regarding their children.

In 2008, a couple filed a after the birth of their child. The parents stated that had they known the baby would have been born with Down syndrome, they would not have continued the pregnancy. A Massachusetts court decided to award the couple with $8.22 million. In such lawsuits, plaintiffs typically must prove that a doctor knew about the issue and didn’t tell the parents, failed to diagnose the issue or prevented the parents from making an educated decision regarding the pregnancy.

Thirteen states currently ban such lawsuits, and there is a movement to make the ban national. A bill introduced to Congress last month would prohibit wrongful birth claims. Disability rights advocates note that the practice dehumanizes the children who are born and play a role in reinforcing negative stereotypes regarding people who are disabled. While these lawsuits are not prevalent, they can be lucrative with awards of upward of $50 million.

Outside this debate, there are laws and regulations in place that require a physician to act in accordance with medical standards. When a doctor strays from those guidelines, there can be severe consequences. Any victim of medical malpractice should consult with an attorney in order to secure compensation for associated expenses.

Source: The Blaze, “Court-Sanctioned Child Abuse: Lawmakers Look to Make ‘Wrongful Birth Lawsuits’ Illegal,” Fred Lucas, June 6, 2014 

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