The French parliament voted Tuesday to stop people with
disabilities from filing so-called "wrongful birth" lawsuits against doctors
for allowing them to be born.
The measure is in response to criticism the government has faced following
three recent rulings by France's highest court to allow people with
disabilities to sue doctors for failing to diagnose a disability -- or
inform their mothers that they might have a disability -- before they were
Under the new law, a person can sue a doctor for damages from failing to
detect a disability in the womb, but only if it is a "blatant error" on the
doctor's part. Parents can seek damages for medical incompetence, but can no
longer claim compensation for the extra costs of raising a child. Those
costs will continue to be subsidized by the nation's social security system.
In November 2000, France's highest court ruled that Nicolas Perruche could
sue his mother's physicians because they had not detected that she had
caught rubella, a virus similar to the measles, during her 1983 pregnancy.
Because of her infection, Nicolas was born blind, deaf and has mental
Nicolas' parents said that they would have had him aborted if they had known
he would have disabilities.
The court made similar rulings this past July and again in November.
Those decisions outraged disability rights groups who said that the court
believed that "it is better to be dead than to have a disability."
After the court rulings, doctors who specialize in pregnancy treatment saw
their insurance premiums increase by as much as 10 times. Those specialists
have been on strike since January 1 to protest the court decisions.
"What is unbearable about this debate is that we -- people who are
handicapped -- have the feeling that we are 'in the way'," Jean-Christophe
Parisot, president of the Collective of Handicapped Democrats, said when the
bill was first read last month.
Background and past stories on the Perruche case and other "wrongful birth"
cases are available from the Inclusion Daily Express website:
More D. R. Nation
Back to home page