LifeSite NewsThe Canadian Supreme Court has, for the first time, ruled on a case involving “wrongful birth.” The nine justices have ruled unanimously that the adult care of a child born with Down syndrome need not be covered by a doctor who failed to encourage the woman to undergo pre-natal testing which may have identified the disorder.

Pam and Murray Krangle of Maple Ridge B.C. were demanding that Dr. Stanley Morrill continue to cover the costs of the special care needs for their 10-year-old child Mervyn into adulthood. Pam Krangle said she would have aborted her son had she been made aware of his condition before birth. The case did not deal with the wrongful birth issue head on since the court was asked only to rule on whether payments from the doctor’s insurance company should continue indefinitely or whether Mervyn should be placed on welfare support. The justices decided he should be placed on welfare support.

The original 1997 B.C. Supreme Court decision against the doctor for being responsible for the wrongful birth went unchallenged. However, in a subsequent ruling on the case, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled Morrill should pay increased damages to cover the child into adulthood. This decision was appealed and quashed in the Supreme Court’s decision on Jan. 24.

Wrongful birth cases have led to astronomically high insurance fees for doctors who deliver babies – driving many professionals from the practice. The success of the suits, which penalize doctors for ostensibly failing to encourage genetic testing or amniocentesis, is very disturbing both in terms of its implications for pro-life doctors and in terms of what it says about our society’s recognition of the responsibility of parents. Many pro-life doctors refuse to refer patients for search and destroy amniocentesis and other such tests, so they face a higher risk of prosecution by dissatisfied parents. In late June 1999, a Michigan appeals court panel warned the logic of wrongful-birth suits “could quickly slide into applied eugenics and the elimination of supposedly unfit human lives.”

Chief Justice McLaughlin pointed out clearly in the ruling that, “The only issue before this Court is the amount of that loss – specifically, whether the Krangles are entitled to damages for the cost of caring for Mervyn after he reaches adulthood.”