New Zealand High Court Rules that Pregnancy Is an “Injury”

The New Zealand High Court recently upheld a District Court ruling that an unwanted pregnancy, occurring after a failed sterilization attempt, is considered an "injury" to the woman's body.

The lawsuit involved a mother who "accidentally" became pregnant with her fifth child after undergoing sterilization four years ago, the New Zealand Herald reports.

According to Lawyer magazine, Judge Jillian Moore mentioned stretch marks, nausea, vomiting and other signs of the physical and hormonal changes that a woman undergoes during pregnancy. Referring to these symptoms, Moore stated, "if these kinds of changes and resulting effects were suffered by some other impact upon the body…there would be little difficulty in calling them harm."

Judge Moore concluded that while pregnancy is itself a natural process, the effects of pregnancy involve an injury to the woman's body, reports the Herald. In this particular case, the mother had sustained an injury for "having her bodily integrity invaded."

Ruth Dyson, Associate Minister of New Zealand's Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), stated that ACC must examine how this ruling will affect their policies. ACC is the sole government insurance agency that provides compensation for citizens who have sustained accidental injuries. This compulsory state compensation takes away a person's right to sue except in the case of exemplary damages. At present ACC is likely to take the recent ruling on "pregnancy as injury" to the New Zealand Court of Appeal.

Judge Mallon attempted to limit the decision, however, to cases in which women became pregnant without consent. If a woman had "consensual intercourse", the pregnancy is not considered an "accident", and the accident-compensation agency ACC would not be required to pay for "damages."

The court decision is also expected to have significant repercussions on other New Zealand lawsuits regarding botched sterilizations. A Wanganui gynaecologist, Roman Hasil, for example, is facing a lawsuit regarding six women who underwent surgery for sterilization and became pregnant afterwards. The women, who complained about "pain" and "loss of wages," says the Wanganui Chronicle, may be able to claim compensation from ACC for having sustained accidental "injury."

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