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French Parliament Makes "Wrongful Birth" Lawsuits A Thing Of The Past
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

PARIS, Feb. 19, 2002 -- 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.

More on 'wrongful birth'

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 born.

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 retardation.

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: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/wrongfulbirths.htm

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