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'Wrongful life' lawsuits for faulty genetic counselling: should the impaired newborn be entitled to sue?
  1. A Shapira
  1. Tel Aviv University, Israel.


    A "wrongful life" suit is based on the purported tortious liability of a genetic counsellor towards an infant with hereditary defects, with the latter asserting that he or she would not have been born at all if not for the counsellor's negligence. This negligence allegedly lies in the failure on the part of the defendant adequately to advice the parents or to conduct properly the relevant testing and thereby prevent the child's conception or birth (where unimpaired life was not possible). This paper will offer support for the thesis that it would be both feasible and desirable to endorse "wrongful life" compensation actions. The genetic counsellor owed a duty of due professional care to the impaired newborn who now claims that but for the counsellor's negligence, he or she would not have been born at all. The plaintiff's defective life (where healthy life was never an option) constitutes a compensable injury. A sufficient causal link may exist between the plaintiff's injury and the defendant's breach of duty of due professional care and an appropriate measure of damages can be allocated to the disabled newborn. Sanctioning a "wrongful life" cause of action does not necessarily entail abandoning valuable constraints with regard to abortion and euthanasia. Nor does it inevitably lead to an uncontrolled slide down a "slippery slope".

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