This past summer, the French high court ruled in favour of a family of a severely disabled French teen in a lawsuit against medical authorities that in effect says the child ought never have been born. The decision in this “wrongful birth” lawsuit implicitly accepts that Nicholas Perruche, who has heart problems and is deaf, dumb, partly blind, and mentally disabled, should have never been allowed to live, that he would be better off dead than alive with disabilities.

In October, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a similar case. The Court will decide how much money the Krangle family of British Columbia will receive from their doctor because he did not make them aware of the availability of amniocentesis tests for women over 35 years of age who are more at risk of giving birth to children with Down syndrome or other genetic defects.

The Krangles say if they knew beforehand that their son Mervyn was going to be born with Down syndrome, they would have aborted him.

The SPOC is to rule whether the doctor’s insurance company should pay for Mervyn’s care up to the age of 19 or the lifetime care he will need. Mervyn, now 10 years old, according to press reports, “can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair or dress himself without help. He suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, frequently loses his balance,” and that he “will have to live under constant supervision for the rest of his life.”

In the French case, Mrs. Perruche was one month pregnant when she was exposed to German measles in 1982 but an erroneous laboratory report said she was immunized against the disease. If she had known otherwise, she says she too would have aborted her son rather than take the health risks such exposure can cause.

In its decision the French court said that the doctors’ and laboratory’s mistakes “prevented Perruche from exercising her choice to end her pregnancy to avoid the birth of a handicapped child.” Technically, the case is about compensating the family for their financial burden and emotional hardships they have experienced in raising the boy and the continued support Nicholas Perruche will need. So, too, would the Canadian case. But the French decision and Canadian case both send the signal that children born with disabilities are owed compensation for being born.

A French public prosecutor, Jerry Sainte-Rose, warned that the decision could lead to mass abortions as a result of medical professionals’ fears about their culpability if they preside over the birth of a disabled child. The new medical credo could become: when in doubt, abort.

But aside from the legal and medical issues the case raises is the awful assumption that some people should not live. The decision for a mother to abort because of the possibility of birth defects is one thing (and is rightfully opposed by pro-lifers and many disabled activists), but the attitude behind both cases is that the severely disabled such as Nicholas Perruche and Mervyn Krangle should be aborted.

In these particular cases, families sued a doctor for not providing information that may have led the mother to have an abortion.

How long, however, until a disabled child demands compensation from not just a doctor but his or her parents for not being aborted because he or she was made to endure a condition the parents could very well have prevented? Why stop with a physical or mental disability? Perhaps children of poor parents would seek compensation for their wretched existence also.

Prenatal genetic screening has already led to countless thousands of abortions as a new-found parental right to a healthy child is asserted. Gregor Wolbring, a professor of biochemistry at the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary and a co-founder of the World Federation of Thalidomiders, says genetic screening is used as part of a eugenics project to “eliminate the imperfections of the human race.”

That sounds harsh, but as Gilbert Meilander noted in Bioethics: A Primer for Christians, that because “we can diagnose far more fetal defects than we can cure,” the primary use of advances in genetic knowledge is not treatment of the disorder but “elimination of the one who is afflicted with the disorder.”

Writing 20 years ago in Human Life Review, Malcolm Muggeridge said genetic screening would lead to “the Humane Holocaust.” Muggeridge said, “With the developing of modern medicine, the human race could be pruned and carefully tended until only the perfect blooms – the beauty queens, the mensa IQs, the athletes – remained.” In this dystopian vision of the future – and the future is now – the eradication of “sick and misshapen bodies … or mongoloid children” is a humane development, not an exercise in eugenics. We will kill off the disabled for their own good.

Wolbring says society’s view of the disabled is misinformed. The larger population sees disabled people as “defective” and living a poor quality of life and consequently, the pity they feel for them leads to the barbaric conclusion they would be better off dead.

If that interpretation of society’s view of people with disabilities is accurate (and I think it is), how long until there is a societal expectation that children likely to be born with disabilities ought to be aborted to spare them of their suffering (or society the financial burden of supporting them)?

Despite the protests of the Perruche family lawyers that theirs is a “unique case” without wider implications, it signals the acceptance of the idea that a disabled person ought not to live – and if not all disabled people, at least Nicholas Perruche. And perhaps soon, Canada’s own Mervyn Krangle.