Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Wrongful Life Definition:

A child's tort claim for bringing the child to birth where the person so doing knew or ought to have known that the child would be born into a life of painful and debilitating disease.

Related Terms: Wrongful Birth, Wrongful Pregnancy, Wrongful Death

A claim in tort usually against a medical practitioner.

Comparable but distinct from wrongful birth.

In The Law of Torts, Dobbs defines a wrongful life claim as follows:

"The wrongful life claim is one asserted by a child suffering birth defects such as painful and debilitating disease. The claim is ... that the child has a claim for the suffering he must undergo as a result.

"Most courts have rejected this claim...."

The claim, though viable in the United States, has not met with universal endorsement elsewhere amongst common law jurisdictions. For example, in Kealey, Justice Law of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote, in 1996:

"Wrongful life claims are also claims which arise in cases of planned pregnancies and where the child is born with birth defects. The distinction is that these claims are normally advanced by the infant plaintiff or on his or her behalf and sometimes together with a derivative claim by the parents. These claims can arise pre-conception as in the case of a failed sterilization or post-conception as in the case of a failed abortion or improper genetic screening.

"A wrongful life claim alleges that the TortFeasor, invariably a physician, owes a duty of care to the child which is breached by the physician's failure to give the child's parents the opportunity to terminate his or her life.

"In Canada and in many other jurisdictions, there is no independent cause of action by an injured child for wrongful life."


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