Montana jury rejects wrongful birth lawsuit

News from Montana
News from Montana

A Montana jury ruled against a woman in a lawsuit seeking $14.5 million from her health care providers, whom she claimed failed to disclose information about her child’s cystic fibrosis, which, if disclosed, would have led to her have an abortion.

So-called wrongful birth lawsuits are not new, but have received increased attention in recent years. According to NBC Montana, 13 states banned them in 2015.

The lawsuits’ proponents argue they are necessary to incentivize doctors to disclose information so women can make informed choices. Kerrie Evans, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, argued that her providers failed to meet the necessary standard of care when they counseled her during her pregnancy.

“It’s abysmal record keeping. It’s a system failure, no one is keeping track of the information they’re supposed to keep track of,” E. Casey Magan, one of Evans’ lawyers, told NBC News.

The defendants in the case, nurse practitioner Peggy Scanson and Dr. William Peters, disagreed, pointing out that Evans allegedly did not read a provided cystic fibrosis pamphlet, or obtain genetic counseling that would have provided her further information.

“She ignored what she was given. She ignored what she was told. And now she’s here blaming others,” Scanson’s attorney, John Scully, said during closing statements, according to the Associated Press.

Most prominent disability rights groups oppose wrongful birth lawsuits, arguing they devalue the lives of people with disabilities.

A coalition of 11 disability rights groups, including the National Disability Rights Network and Not Dead Yet, wrote a letter to the ACLU in March 2012, slamming the organization for its supports of such lawsuits.

“The ACLU action alert raises the concern that a law rejecting wrongful birth claims will deprive women of ‘information that might lead to a decision to end the pregnancy or that might lead the woman and her partner to learn more so they are prepared to be the best parents they can be to their child,’” the letter stated. “However, wrongful birth cases do not cover both these situations—only the cases where a woman is willing to lament the existence of her child with a disability.

“A State’s refusal to recognize wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits does not impact lawsuits arising out of harm to the mother or child caused by a misdiagnosis, nor does it impede a woman from getting an abortion.”

In June 2014, Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) introduced the Every Child is a Blessing Act, which would ban wrongful birth lawsuits nationwide.

Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington, and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.