Wrongful Pregnancy, Wrongful Birth, and Wrongful Life: What are They?
In August of last year, we explained the basics of wrongful death actions in Illinois. But Illinois law is as concerned with the beginning of life as its end. So, the law recognizes two of what are known as birth-related medical negligence claims: wrongful pregnancy and wrongful birth. For reasons we explain below, it has rejected a third type of such claims, wrongful life.
As medical negligence claims, wrongful birth and wrongful pregnancy are generally like other medical malpractice lawsuits, but deal specifically with pregnancy and birth. Below, we summarize each of the three types of birth-related medical negligence claims (and explain why only two are available in Illinois):
The Birth-Related Medical Negligence Causes of Action
Wrongful pregnancy: A wrongful pregnancy claim is one following a negligently performed sterilization procedure. If a person undergoes a sterilization procedure (like a tubal ligation for women or vasectomy for men), but the woman nonetheless becomes pregnant, then the couple can sue for a wrongful pregnancy.
In general, in wrongful pregnancy claims, the plaintiffs are entitled to the damages they suffer as a result of the pregnancy itself—such as the costs of the unsuccessful operation, the pain and suffering involved in the pregnancy, the costs of treating any medical complications, the costs of delivery, as well as lost wages and loss of consortium.
Wrongful birth: A claim for wrongful pregnancy is one brought by a child’s parents. In it, the parents allege that they would never have conceived the child or carried him or her to term if their doctor had not failed to discover and inform them of a physical or mental impairment in the developing fetus or the risk of such an impairment based on their own genetics.
Plaintiffs who win a wrongful pregnancy case are entitled to extraordinary damages, including the costs of treating their child until he or she becomes an adult. Those costs include the medical, institutional, and educational expenses necessary to manage and treat their child’s condition.
Wrongful life: A wrongful life claim—where such claims are recognized—belongs to a child, not his or her parents. It is the child’s version of a wrongful birth claim. In it, the child argues that, if his or her parents’ doctor had properly advised them of some mental or physical impairment, he would never have been born, and so he or she should be compensated for having to live with his or her condition.Illinois law does not recognize wrongful life claims. The Illinois Supreme Court has explained that “human life, no matter how burdened, is, as a matter of law, always preferable to nonlife.” As such, children are not entitled to bring wrongful life claims in Illinois.
Wrongful pregnancy and wrongful birth claims can seem off-putting to some. For instance, some people may worry that it means they don’t love their newborn child if they file a lawsuit claiming they’ve been injured by the pregnancy or birth in some way.
But such claims aren’t really about the child, whom the parents, of course, love and care for. Rather, birth-related medical negligence lawsuits are about the financial burdens and other difficulties the parents will have to undertake as a result of their doctor’s negligence—the same as in any other medical malpractice case.
If you believe your doctor’s negligence has caused you to suffer a wrongful pregnancy or wrongful birth, contact the personal injury lawyers of Costa Ivone for a free consultation. We can review your case, help you understand your legal rights, and pursue those rights in and out of court.