When doctors, geneticists or other medical professionals fail to warn parents of a genetic or congenital disorder during pregnancy, parents can sue for "wrongful birth." The idea is that "Wrongful birth" lawsuits are brought by parents to terminate the pregnancy if they had been aware of their child's condition prior to birth.
These parents are suing the doctors or other medical professionals who were in charge of ordering or interpreting various genetic tests. The parents are seeking compensation for the extraordinary expenses of caring for a disabled child, claiming that it was not their choice, and in fact the fault of doctors, that they are incurring these costs.
The costs of caring for a disabled child vary based on the type of disability and the duration and depth of care required. Generally these costs are incurred while the child is a minor (younger than 18 years old). But in some cases disabled children can require care beyond this age. In some states, including Illinois, parents can be compensated for these post-majority expenses, as well. In Illinois, parents in wrongful birth lawsuits cannot recover the costs of raising a typical child without disabilities; their compensation is limited to the extra costs of caring for a child with a physical or mental impairment.
Other issues include emotional distress. Although emotional distress seems obvious in these cases, it can be very hard to prove. To be compensated, it is not enough to feel sadness, disappointment and stress over the birth of a disabled child. The emotional distress must be caused by being in physical danger as a result of the child's disability. This is usually very hard to prove.
"Wrongful birth" lawsuits are brought by parents. There is an equivalent lawsuit that can be brought by children, called "wrongful life" lawsuits. Wrongful life cases are difficult, for the parents and for the courts. They bring up serious and controversial questions about the value of a life. In a wrongful life lawsuit the disabled child is claiming that they should be compensated because if the doctor had properly warned their parents, they would have avoided being born.
Wrongful life lawsuits are not allowed in all states. For example, in Illinois, wrongful life is not legally recognized. The reason is that courts have trouble determining at what point, if at all, a disabled person's life is worse than having no life at all. So courts often avoid this question altogether.