An Oregon jury awarded nearly $3 million to a couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome after doctors had reassured them that the baby would be normal. They alleged that it had been a “wrongful birth” because had they known that the baby would be handicapped, they would have aborted her. A number of studies have shown that at least 90% of women who learn that they are pregnant with a Down syndrome child have an abortion.
The baby was born in 2007. The couple, Ariel and Deborah Levy, say that the $3 million will be needed to care for their daughter’s medical and social needs over her lifetime. The case was so controversial that the judge banned publication of photos of the Levys.
Bioethicist Art Caplan commented that the case showed the need for legal reform to cope with mistakes in genetic testing:
“Wrongful birth lawsuits are a horrible way to deal with failed prenatal testing. Forcing parents to argue that their child never should have been born may make legal sense but it is morally absurd. Why ask parents to reject the existence of their own child? Who can really put a value on a life that some argue in court ought not exist?
“There is no reason to permit wrongful birth or wrongful life cases. When a mistake is alleged about genetic testing there ought to be some sort of no-fault insurance scheme under the supervision of neutral mediators, not a courtroom slugfest that demeans the value of a life with disability and reeks of eugenics.”