A ‘wrongful birth’ is where parents claim that a child would not have been born were it not for negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical practitioner. It generally arises in relation to failed sterilisation or vasectomy, or where a child has been born with a specific disability that the parents were not properly informed about.
Parents will often pursue compensation for a wrongful birth to help them deal with the financial, practical and emotional impact of the birth. This can, for example, be used to pay for a child’s medical treatment and care support (in the case of a disability) as well as the general financial impact of having a child with a disability.
How do wrongful births happen?
There are various reasons why a wrongful birth might occur. The most common are mistakes made my medical staff carrying our sterilisation of women or vasectomies on men, as well as errors in testing of foetuses for genetic defects or other issues that could lead to disability.
Where a pregnancy results following a failed sterilisation or vasectomy, parents may have personal, religious or moral reasons for not wishing to terminate the pregnancy or they may delay pregnancy testing until it is too late for a termination on the basis that they assume the mother cannot be pregnant.
Errors with testing foetuses for genetic defects include incorrectly carrying out genetic testing or other types of testing e.g. radiological exams for brain defects. This could result in a birth defect being missed that might have resulted in parents choosing not to carry on with a pregnancy. The errors may also include failing to record or properly notify parents of any issues that are identified.
What compensation can you claim for a wrongful birth?
This will depend on the circumstances, including whether the wrongful birth was the result of a failed sterilisation or vasectomy, or due to negligent foetal testing for disability.
If you are claiming for the wrongful birth of a healthy child due failed sterilisation or vasectomy, you can only claim in relation to the impact of the unwanted pregnancy. You cannot claim for the general costs involved in raising a healthy child.
Compensation for wrongful birth of a healthy child can cover issues including:
- Loss of earnings & other financial losses arising from the unwanted pregnancy
- Physical & emotional pain experienced during pregnancy & birth
- The cost of any additional sterilisation procedure or vasectomy
Compensation for the wrongful birth of a disabled child can cover issues including:
- Medical costs
- Care costs (including lifelong care for the child where required)
- Loss of income
- Pain & suffering
Claiming compensation for wrongful birth
If you need to claim compensation for a wrongful birth, it is recommended to contact a solicitor specialising in gynaecology claims and with specific expertise in wrongful birth claims. This is because these types of claims are often very complicated and hard-fought by defendants, so it is essential to have the support of legal experts with experience pursuing medical negligence compensation.
Making a claim will involve gathering evidence about the errors that were made resulting in the wrongful birth, as well as proof of the financial impact and other effects this has had on your life. Your solicitors will then contact the defendant to attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement. While most medical negligence claims are settled out of court, court proceedings are sometimes required to achieve a fair outcome.
If you do receive wrongful birth compensation, it can be very substantial, so it is also a good idea to consider options such as placing the compensation into a trust. This can protect your entitlement to means-tested benefits and ensure your child will have appropriate financial support for life where required e.g. if they need lifelong care as a result of a profound disability.