Over the past week I happened upon this article and this article which describes how a couple won three million dollars because their daughter had been born with Down Syndrome despite the fact that a screening test showed no sign that their daughter would have it. They called it a wrongful birth suit. When I first heard about this, I must admit my jaw hung open and really couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even really know there was such a thing as a “wrongful birth.”
It’s not that I can’t somewhat see where the parents are coming from. That has to be difficult. We have a healthy, relatively normal little boy so that understanding is only very shallow, but reading through he comments on the articles there are many parents and even a couple of people with Down Syndrome who know where the couple would be coming from. Interestingly it seems that most don’t really agree with the track that this couple took.
As much as I can sympathize with a couple going through this, I think their actions are wrongheaded even with leaving the elephant of abortion out of the conversation as much as possible. My biggest concern is our reliance on medical testing to decide whether a life is worth bringing into the world or not. My wife works in the medical field and it is pretty clear that our testing is not perfect on many things. I think that it is wrong to simply blame the doctors and seek money under the assumption that tests will always be 100% accurate. Medicine is not a magic wand that can tell us exactly what is wrong with us, instantly take it away, and be right every single time. Yeah we all know doctors that are in it for the money, but that doesn’t mean that suing is the answer when something unexpected goes on, unless it is completely clear that the doctors were at fault, which seems rather cloudy on this case.
The other thing that bothers me is the idea that money is ultimately what this family will need. No doubt there will be added expense, but I’m skeptical about the idea that it will be to the tune of three million. It would take some making sixty thousand after taxes fifty years to even earn that much money. I’m guessing that people have raised kids with Down Syndrome with a lot less than three million. Ultimately, it will be love, support, and encouragement that any child going through this ultimately needs. Attributes that suing for “wrongful birth” undermines thoroughly even if the parents don’t believe it does.
I don’t know if I could ever back a “wrongful birth” suit. I can understand the concept of wrongful death, but something like this just doesn’t set well with me. Perhaps I just think it is a slippery slope that anyone who has seen the movie Gattaca would understand. Nobody is perfect, we may not be born with Down Syndrome, but every child has their imperfections be it their attitudes, behaviors, or health. They may not all be obvious at first, but they may develop. In that sense we could all probably be called “wrongful births” if someone would so choose. I just hope that the choice this couple made, doesn’t bite them in the rear one day.