What is meant by “wrongful birth”? E.M.P. North York

In a court action for “wrongful birth” physicians are sued because they did not determine (e.g. by amniocentesis) that a pre-born child would be born with a disability, or because they did not inform the parents so that the child could be aborted. The parents need only claim they would have been told it was defective.

One such “wrongful birth” case, Berman v. Allan, 1979, was reviewed by the New Jersey court. Mrs. Berman, the mother of a Down’s syndrome child, alleged that she would have aborted the baby if she had been told if she had been told about a possible test by amniocentesis. The court denied the parents’ claim for medical and education expenses, but did award damages for the “emotional anguish and pain” they suffered in having a Down’s syndrome child.

There was no mention of the emotional hurt of a child in having such parents.

What is meant by “wrongful life”? E.M.P. North York

“Wrongful life” actions are also brought against the physicians, but this time on behalf of the “defective” child. The petitioners allege that the doctors were negligent in failing to inform the parents about the pre-born child’s handicap, for otherwise the child would not have been born. It would have been aborted.

Not surprisingly, the courts have found it difficult to decide whether a child does indeed have a right not to have been born, and if so how to assess damages for being born alive.

In one such case, Park v. Chessim, 1977, the New York Court of Appeals allowed a child’s claim that because of a doctor’s error her parents did not have the opportunity to abort her. The doctors had been wrong when they told her parents that her older sister’s polycystic kidney disease was not hereditary. The court found that the doctor’s error had denied her “the fundamental right of a child to be born as a whole, functional human being.”

A higher court—with more common sense—said that there is nothing in common or statute law, which gives a “fundamental right to be born whole.” Moreover the law court is no place for arguing that one should never have been born.

Have there been cases of “wrongful birth”, etc., in Canada?

Not to my knowledge. However, until January 1988, Section 251 of the Criminal Code did not permit abortion of defective fetus; therefore, there were no legal grounds for such actions. Tomorrow, it could be different, and pro-life doctors, nurses, and hospitals could face major problems. In parts of the United States there is a serious shortage of doctors who will take maternity cases. The writing is already on the wall.

Why do Operation Rescue prisoners call themselves Baby Doe? S.L.

They do so to identify with helpless babies, born and unborn, whose lives are being snuffed out. Baby Doe was such a child. 

Baby Doe was born at the Bloomington Hospital, Indiana, April 9, 1982.He was a Down’s syndrome baby with a further complication “that the passage from the mouth to the stomach had not appropriately developed.” The Doe’s family doctor and the hospital pediatricians recommended that the infant be transferred to a nearby hospital for immediate surgery not available at Bloomington. The obstetrician, Dr. Owens however, recommended that since the baby was a Down’s syndrome child he should not be moved, not have surgery, and not be fed. He said: “Some of these children [Downs Syndrome–are mere blobs.”

Since Dr. Owens did not have pediatric privileges at Bloomington, the hospital lawyer thought it wiser to consult the country court judge, and thus began a legal struggle in the Indiana courts. Meanwhile, Baby Doe was not receiving neither food nor water. On Thursday, April 15, Bobby and Shirley Wright petitioned to adopt the baby. Later, that same day pro-life lawyers left for Washington, D.C. in a last desperate effort to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Baby Doe died of starvation and dehydration just minutes before the plane left.

I have been told that the March of Dimes is not pro-life. Is not this true?  W.A.F. Vancouver

Yes, it is true. Our information comes from pro-life researchers in the United States where all pro-life groups boycott the organization. No one denies its excellent work of 90 per cent of the funds. Nevertheless the March of Dimes has been a leader in the movement to “search and destroy” the preborn disabled child. The charity pioneered the setting up of centers for genetic testing by mid-trimester amniocentesis. Unlike late amniocenteses is which can befit both mother and baby, e.g. for Rh problems and fetal lung maturity the mid-trimester only identifies—not treats—the medical problem. The usual solution is to kill the patient –the baby.