Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Wrongful Life" isn't an April Fool's joke, unfortunately

Nancy French on the obvious eugenic meaning behind "Wrongful Life" lawsuits.


  1. Michael,

    You still don't get it. Antenatal screening isn't compulsory. Clinicians can only offer it to their patients, after explaining the risks and benefits. It's then up to the patient whether it's appropriate.

    CrusadeRex and his wife were offered screening during their last pregnancy. Sensibly, they refused, because the result wouldn't affect their views, if an abnormality was detected, and screening has risks.

    Melbourne-Theist had an ultrasound, suggesting a cardiac anomaly, was offered amniocentesis which showed trisomy 18 and was offered an elective abortion, which she declined.

    All that's necessary from a medico legal viewpoint is to offer the information and allow the patient to decide. The patient has to give informed consent to any procedure performed.

    The couple in Oregon had amniocentesis with chorionic villus sampling for cytogenetics, which by its nature should be 100% accurate and reliable. It wasn't, and that's what they were being awarded the damages.

    I asked you in the previous thread what you dislike more;

    A dollar sum being placed on the added inconvenience and cost of the lifetime care of a child with trisomy 21 (using phrasing appropriate to your argument),

    Or, screening for unremedial conditions such as trisomy 21 and elective abortions if they're detected?

    I suspect, you'd object more to the second alternative.

    If so, you should be hoping for many more of these cases, so screening comes to be regarded as unreliable, and many more multimillion dollar damages, so that insurance companies come to regard screening as high risk and refuse to cover them or increase the premiums to such a height for clinicians who want to provide them that they become economically impossible.

    So what is it?

  2. Bach,
    I understand your question, but you presume a cynicism that is simply not present.
    The results of examinations such as ultrasound can prepare a parent for what is to come, as it did in MT's situation (a touching account of humanity and parenthood).
    As for amniocentesis, the risks outweigh the benefits. That is why we declined. You have outlined that quite well.
    To risk spontaneous abortion in order to see if you want an abortion is only for the unsure perfectionist (ie the pro eugenics mindset). I completely agree with our doctor (OBGYN) on this issue: Such people should buy a pedigree pet. Mr Muggles will be far less disappointing for all concerned.
    But, when you suggest the Doctor should be hoping for more of these cases you clearly miss the point.
    In order for these cases to be heard in the first place there is a necessary perversion of law and a prerequisite culture of eugenicism.
    I cannot speak for Mike, but I would say you're spot on as far as the procedures go, but personally I would like to see the courts reject any such suite on two simple grounds.
    First there was no harm done, so no medical damages can be sought. They did not misdiagnose a cancer or tumour in the patient, they failed to detect an extra chromosome in an otherwise healthy child. Consider: If an ultrasound technician or OBGYN had mistakenly told them they were having a boy, and they had prepared for one, only to find out they were having a girl...would that be grounds for a 'wrongful birth' suit? No. So why should the parents of a Stephen Hawkins or Albert Einstein (who could not speak until he was 3 years old) be 'screened' and potentially aborted due to some inherited genetic trait or abnormality?
    Secondly, but most importantly, because the idea that an unborn child's life can be selectively ended due to a 'defect', illness, or their sex is abhorrent.
    For the courts to consider that the failure to 'screen' such a pregnancy is grounds to sue for damages is the thin edge of a disgustingly amoral wedge.
    So I do not want to see another single case of this kind. I stand against all forms of eugenics and 'transhumanism'. That said, if the publicity surrounding these cases brings an end to the practice and redirects the courts to the the sane and correct application of the law, so be it. Such an a turn of events would be typical of Evil, a force that constantly defeats itself.
    However, I would rather see it defeated and exposed by Goodness. Only people focused on doing good can make that happen, and I suppose the legal systems of the modern world have a serious deficit when it comes to that kind of driving force.
    My take.