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Subject: Oregon Case asks if there is such a thing as "wrongful life" rss

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Michael Hopcroft
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An Oregon couple has won a judgment for $2.9 million dollars in a suit against a health care provider stating that they would have aborted their four-year-old daughter had they received a correct prenatal diagnosis of Down's Syndrome.

The couple claims they wouldn't dream of harming the girl now, but that the provider is responsible for the extra medical care, special education, and other expenses she will require.

It is estimated that 85% of potential parents terminate their pregnancies when a prenatal test for Down's Syndrome turns out positive.
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Rich Shipley
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It seems a pretty clear cut liability case. If there was negligence that resulted in extra expense, they can sue and win if they can prove it.

There was no ethical issue in this case, even if you believe that there is one in choosing to abort. Since it is legal, it isn't at issue here.
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I'm not sure that I get your title in relation to your OP. Could you elaborate on the "wrongful life" part?
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I think the real issue here is the idea of aborting a pregnancy just because a child will be learning disabled. While I do supportthe right to abortion in principle, I think he idea of aborting a child just because that child would have Down's syndrome or some other birth defect horrific and morally abhorrent. Yes, it's not the same as killing the actual child that the fetus will grow into but it still smacks of eugenics.
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Michael Hopcroft
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The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.

Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.

To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.

EDIT:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.
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I can't imagine what it would be like to be this kid and reading about this case.
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Boaty McBoatface
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I do find the idea of aborting children to to 'cost issues' rather disurbing. But there was a mis-diagnosis, and thus negligence. I think the parents are...well I can't really think of a word (they are at best selfish and at worse imoral), and the doctors incompetant.
 
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quozl wrote:
I can't imagine what it would be like to be this kid and reading about this case.


I have to agree, if teh child ever finds out about this how is it going to react?
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Michael Hopcroft
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quozl wrote:
I can't imagine what it would be like to be this kid and reading about this case.


It is probably unlikely she will read about it until years after the fact. I don't know much about Down's Syndrome and the mental impairments that result (other than that it is highly variable) but I'm pretty sure that only the most severe cases are absolute barriers to literacy. The question appears to be how the person is taught.

She's four years old now. Regardless of impairment, few four-year-olds read the newspaper.
 
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Down syndrome is not only a learning disability. It's also increased risk for a whole raft of serious medical issues, including 30+% chance of a heart defect. If the child is male, he is pretty much guaranteed to be sterile. If female, she will have a difficult time getting pregnant and safely bringing the baby to term, and the baby would have a 50% chance of also having Down syndrome.

Mandating that disabled foetuses be aborted would be eugenics, but allowing parents to choose is nothing of the sort. The objective is not to improve the genetic health of the population, but to save parents the heartache and emotional strain of raising a child that is more likely to have serious health issues, more likely to die early, highly unlikely to furnish grandchildren, and guaranteed to require more intensive parenting than an average child. That's a burden that many relationships cannot survive, and I believe that people should be allowed to opt out. It's not a decision they would make frivolously.

(Moshe actually discussed that it would 'smack of' eugenics, and I understand what that means - and he's right. Mandated destruction of the mentally ill happened very recently, and we are right to feel a little disturbed by anything that comes close. But it's important to recognise situations where 'suggestive' falls short of 'actually'.)
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whac3 wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.

Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.

To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.

EDIT:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.


Life is difficult enough for people that start off drawing all the best cards*, it makes sense that if one knows their offspring would have a severe disadvantage they'd make the call to just prevent all the potential suffering as an act of compassion. Not that "compassion" is exactly the motivating factor in this specific case but the argument applies to the general concept.

*So difficult I'd argue that even if knowing the child would be a borderline demigod it should be tough to actually force them into existence, which just makes the opposite situation all the more understandable.
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The Message wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.

Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.

To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.

EDIT:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.


Life is difficult enough for people that start off drawing all the best cards*, it makes sense that if one knows their offspring would have a severe disadvantage they'd make the call to just prevent all the potential suffering as an act of compassion. Not that "compassion" is exactly the motivating factor in this specific case but the argument applies to the general concept.

*So difficult I'd argue that even if knowing the child would be a borderline demigod it should be tough to actually force them into existence, which just makes the opposite situation all the more understandable.

I understand the idea; I'm just not buying it. Again, I'm not against abortion in principle, but I don't think deviation from the norm merits terminating a pregnancy in and of itself.

To me, practicalities require a right to choose because no law could possibly list the cases when abortion is warranted but killing a potential human being because they don't or more precisely probably won't live up to some archetype of "normality" is not a situation where I personally could sanction the choice for an abortion-- were it up to me to make that call.

The idea that a life with some kind of handicap is less worth living is not compassion by any means. It's a disgusting attitude or presumed superiority by those who see others as "disabled". I'll not be driving a car and I got into lots of fights growing up, and indeed growing up or even now socially "fitting in" was never and has never been an option. Yet I would not trade my life for anyone else's and the idea my life is somehow less worth living because I have to hold my head strangely to see and still can't make out the details of faces more than ten feet away is simply absurd.

The idea that one is being "compassionate" to abort such children is disgusting and morally repugnant.
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whac3 wrote:
The Message wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.

Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.

To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.

EDIT:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.


Life is difficult enough for people that start off drawing all the best cards*, it makes sense that if one knows their offspring would have a severe disadvantage they'd make the call to just prevent all the potential suffering as an act of compassion. Not that "compassion" is exactly the motivating factor in this specific case but the argument applies to the general concept.

*So difficult I'd argue that even if knowing the child would be a borderline demigod it should be tough to actually force them into existence, which just makes the opposite situation all the more understandable.

I understand the idea; I'm just not buying it. Again, I'm not against abortion in principle, but I don't think deviation from the norm merits terminating a pregnancy in and of itself.

To me, practicalities require a right to choose because no law could possibly list the cases when abortion is warranted but killing a potential human being because they don't or more precisely probably won't live up to some archetype of "normality" is not a situation where I personally could sanction the choice for an abortion-- were it up to me to make that call.

The idea that a life with some kind of handicap is less worth living is not compassion by any means. It's a disgusting attitude or presumed superiority by those who see others as "disabled". I'll not be driving a car and I got into lots of fights growing up, and indeed growing up or even now socially "fitting in" was never and has never been an option. Yet I would not trade my life for anyone else's and the idea my life is somehow less worth living because I have to hold my head strangely to see and still can't make out the details of faces more than ten feet away is simply absurd.

The idea that one is being "compassionate" to abort such children is disgusting and morally repugnant.


Whilst I do have some sympathy with the midea that no one should be made to suffer, that should allways be thier choice, not someone elses. I kn ow that this is not intended, but I cannot help but think of eugenics when I see the 'compasion' argument used. I realise that no one here is susgesting that eugenics is 'compassionate', but it is the language used to justify it, and thus I feel we shold shy away from the idea (no matter how well intentioned). I would caveat this where the child has no change of viability.
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Michael Hopcroft
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whac3 wrote:
Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.


I know of more than know people with Down's. So I admit to being ignorant of its effects on both intellectual capacity and daily life.

whac3 wrote:
To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.


I guess my problem is with the entire concept that a human being is "defective" because my own disability (which can hardly be described as a birth defect but which has given me no end of trouble over the years) has frequently caused me to believe myself defective to the point that I was a threat to the genetic health of the species. So upon recognizing the erroneous nature of that belief I have trouble with the concept of a defective human being. A human being with problems? A human being who requires some assistance is he wants to live a full life? Certainly. Who doesn't need assistance at some point? But people are not cars you can take into the shop to get the brake pads fixed if something went wrong in the manufacturing process.

You discard cars. People are not cars.

There are other issues this case raises -- not specifically, but given the general issues being contested. Suppose you are an OB/GYN whose religion prevents you from being willing to perform abortions and who is opposed to abortion in principle and seek to prevent it whenever possible. You are asked to perform a test during a pregnancy which would almost certainly lead directly to an abortion if the test produces a certain result. If you don't perform the test the prospective parents are going to find someone who will. What can you do that would enable you to still be true to your beliefs?
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whac3 wrote:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.


Debatable. After all, you still haven't learned who your Savior is.

whistle

On a more serious note, for me abortion is mainly a legal issue. I may consider some abortions morally objectionable but it's not my call to make. By the same token I think it's morally objectionable for people to cheat on their spouses but that's irrelevant to my view that the law shouldn't restrict which consenting adults can sleep with each other.

(Not saying you were suggesting otherwise, but I think this often gets muddled in discussing abortion.)
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Suppose you are an OB/GYN whose religion prevents you from being willing to perform abortions and who is opposed to abortion in principle and seek to prevent it whenever possible. You are asked to perform a test during a pregnancy which would almost certainly lead directly to an abortion if the test produces a certain result. If you don't perform the test the prospective parents are going to find someone who will. What can you do that would enable you to still be true to your beliefs?


Similar issues come up in a number of fields and I actually think this one has a very clear answer, at least in terms of professional ethics. You either perform the test and report the results accurately or you explain to the client(s) that you don't perform this test and refer them to someone who will. Anything else is a violation of the basic ethical commitment any professional makes to their clients. Of course, someone who believes abortion is murder might feel there was a more important standard than professional ethics.
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In the linked article it seems several mistakes were made. The original test was faulty. But then the doctor disregarded the data from two ultrasounds that showed irregular readings consistent with a Downs diagnosis. The doctor should have requested a re-test.
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whac3 wrote:
Again, I'm not against abortion in principle, but I don't think deviation from the norm merits terminating a pregnancy in and of itself.


I'm intrigued. Under what circumstances would would you consider that a pregnancy merited termination?
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DCAnderson wrote:
If you believe that one's personhood begins at conception, then this is just flat out wrong and not worth discussing further.

If you don't assume that a person is a person from conception though it becomes a little trickier.

I hope not to offend, Moshe, but what you are experiencing is a sort of "quantum outrage". If you had never been born then you would not be offended by not existing since, well you wouldn't exist.

So in a way we're dealing with a situation for a parent of picking the best possible reality for their child. Should we be mourning for a hypothetical downs-suffering child existing in another reality?

Utter BS.

I'm not mourning anybody. What I am doing is saying outright that the attitude implicit it the case brought by the parents as described in the OP is disgusting. That attitude denigrates the life or many people-- myself included. You can slice it and dice any way you want but the basic idea is the parents think they were wronged somehow because their child isn't "perfect"-- whatever the heck that means. That attitude is again absolutely disgusting and I hope the judge throws out the case and tells the parents to grow up and delight in the child they actually have.

Frankly I hope child services pays these people a visit because their attitude will have a marked effect on their child psychologically.

P.S.
You're also using the word "quantum" incorrectly.
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qzhdad wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Again, I'm not against abortion in principle, but I don't think deviation from the norm merits terminating a pregnancy in and of itself.


I'm intrigued. Under what circumstances would would you consider that a pregnancy merited termination?

1. The life of the mother is in danger.
2. The mother is incapable of understanding a child is growing inside her or otherwise simply cannot deal with the results of rape or incest.
3. The child could not survive more than a few days and those would be full of severe pain.
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whac3 wrote:
I'm not mourning anybody. What I am doing is saying outright that the attitude implicit it the case brought by the parents as described in the OP is disgusting. That attitude denigrates the life or many people-- myself included. You can slice it and dice any way you want but the basic idea is the parents think they were wronged somehow because their child isn't "perfect"-- whatever the heck that means.


How can you not know what it means when you made it up out of whole cloth?

The parents want money to take care of the kid. Money they wouldn't have needed if things were done correctly. You can read other things into it if you like, but realize that it is coming from you.
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rshipley wrote:
whac3 wrote:
I'm not mourning anybody. What I am doing is saying outright that the attitude implicit it the case brought by the parents as described in the OP is disgusting. That attitude denigrates the life or many people-- myself included. You can slice it and dice any way you want but the basic idea is the parents think they were wronged somehow because their child isn't "perfect"-- whatever the heck that means.


How can you not know what it means when you made it up out of whole cloth?

The parents want money to take care of the kid. Money they wouldn't have needed if things were done correctly. You can read other things into it if you like, but realize that it is coming from you.

BS

EDIT:
To elaborate--

If you think I'm making this up out of nothing, then as usual you're kidding yourself.
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whac3 wrote:
The Message wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Michael Hopcroft wrote:
The press in particular has been referring to this as a "Wrongful life" case because the subject of the case is alive "as a direct result of the defendant's negligence". In other words, she would not be alive had the defendants lived up to their part of the agreement. The couple would never have aborted a healthy child, but would have aborted this one had they known about the potential disability.

The other question it raises is whether a person with a disability is less deserving of a chance to live than one without.

Health is not entirely the issue. While it sounds like the child in this case has other issues, plenty of people with Down's syndrome are entirely healthy.

To me, this is perhaps a touchy subject because I have a severe birth defect in the eyes due to which I am legally blind although physically I can see if not as well as most people. The idea that aborting a fetus just because it has such a defect as mine therefore seems pretty demeaning.

EDIT:
Add to this the fact that even after I was born, doctors tried to tell my parents I would be learning disabled-- which I'm rather decidedly not.


Life is difficult enough for people that start off drawing all the best cards*, it makes sense that if one knows their offspring would have a severe disadvantage they'd make the call to just prevent all the potential suffering as an act of compassion. Not that "compassion" is exactly the motivating factor in this specific case but the argument applies to the general concept.

*So difficult I'd argue that even if knowing the child would be a borderline demigod it should be tough to actually force them into existence, which just makes the opposite situation all the more understandable.

I understand the idea; I'm just not buying it. Again, I'm not against abortion in principle, but I don't think deviation from the norm merits terminating a pregnancy in and of itself.

To me, practicalities require a right to choose because no law could possibly list the cases when abortion is warranted but killing a potential human being because they don't or more precisely probably won't live up to some archetype of "normality" is not a situation where I personally could sanction the choice for an abortion-- were it up to me to make that call.

The idea that a life with some kind of handicap is less worth living is not compassion by any means. It's a disgusting attitude or presumed superiority by those who see others as "disabled". I'll not be driving a car and I got into lots of fights growing up, and indeed growing up or even now socially "fitting in" was never and has never been an option. Yet I would not trade my life for anyone else's and the idea my life is somehow less worth living because I have to hold my head strangely to see and still can't make out the details of faces more than ten feet away is simply absurd.

The idea that one is being "compassionate" to abort such children is disgusting and morally repugnant.


I'm not talking about "normality" though, I'm talking about the expected suffering-joy ratio. Something like this isn't an issue because they're different but because it's a serious obstacle to overcome in modern human societies, which means the suffering side of the equation is likely to rise fairly steeply while the condition doesn't seem to provide any inherent benefits to the joy side.

If human societies reached a point where it wouldn't be such a large obstacle then it would no longer factor into the equation in that way, in the same way that someone with poor vision wouldn't be expected to experience a drastically imbalanced suffering-joy ratio.
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I haven't read the full case and probably wont... because I'm lazy. Can someone tell me if they are claiming misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis necessarily equals negligence, or does their case show specific gross negligence that lead to an incorrect diagnosis?
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