High Court Considers "Wrongful Life" Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 18, 2005
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA--The High Court of Australia heard arguments over whether doctors are responsible for the life-long costs of caring for a child if they did not inform the parents that the child might be born with disabilities.
The parents of Alexia Harriton and Keeden Waller filed "wrongful life" suits on behalf of their children. Harriton, 24, is deaf and blind and has intellectual disabilities related to an infection her mother contracted during her pregnancy. Waller, 5, has intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and seizures because his father had a congenital blood deficiency.
The parents of both children claimed that they would have ended their pregnancies if they had known about their children's disabilities. They sued their doctors for "the harm they (the children) suffered by being born in their disabled condition" along with the "needs and expenses that each has had to and will incur".
The parents are seeking damages including the costs for medical treatment, specialized care and housing their children, The Advertiser reported.
Bret Walker, the attorney representing Harriton, told the High Court on November 10 that the doctor should have talked to her mother about having an abortion "because of the gravity or awfulness for the prospect of my client."
"We say that the pain and suffering and the needs caused by the disability -- nothing to do with being alive -- but the disability, are matters that would not have happened but for the negligence," said Walker.
In April 2004, the Court of Appeal of New South Wales rejected the parents' argument, noting that the doctors had not caused the children's disabilities in the first place. The court also said that putting the blame on doctors in such a case would send the wrong message about the sanctity of life, and that the parents' claims did not reflect the values held in the community.
A decision is expected within the next few months.
"Disabled suing over 'wrongful life'" (The Advertiser)
"In 'wrongful life' suit, disabled woman blames doctor for letting her be born" (Court TV)