Wrongful Life?

| 2 Comments

CourtTV.com | In 'wrongful life' suit, disabled woman blames doctor for letting her be born:

A blind and deaf Australian woman who claims she never should have been born is suing a doctor for a lifetime of suffering in the country's first "wrongful life" suit.

Alexia Harriton, 24, is seeking compensation from the doctor who misdiagnosed rubella in the first trimester of her mother's pregnancy, claiming Olga Harriton would have aborted her had she been aware of the potential birth defects arising from the illness.

Lawyers for the Sydney woman argued in Australia's highest court Thursday that Dr. Paul Stephens is liable for the costs arising from a lifetime of medical treatment that Harriton needs to survive.

His negligence resulted in the birth of a child who is "profoundly disabled," a media spokesperson for the law firm representing Harriton told Courttv.com.

Harriton's lawyers claim that Stephens had a duty to Olga Harriton and to her unborn daughter to inform her of the risk of the infection passing to her child.

"Had the rubella been diagnosed, Olga [Harriton] would have exercised her lawful right to terminate the pregnancy," court documents state.


Alexia would rather be dead? Not to sound heartless, but if that's really the way she feels, there are plenty of pro-euthanasia people who would be happy to help her.

Please don't think that I'm advocating suicide, but this complaint just doesn't make any sense to me. Alexia begrudges the fact that she was given an opportunity to live. Please note that Dr. Stephens could not have done anything to prevent Alexia's handicaps. When Olga contracted rubella, the die was cast. At that point, all that the doctor could have done would have been to tell Olga about the potential for birth defects. The only purpose for that information would have been to encourage Olga to abort Alexia. In other words, Alexia is upset that her mother didn't have the opportunity to kill her within the womb.

Harriton's suit, which was initially filed in 2002, was denied by lower courts on the grounds that the doctor did not breach his duty to the mother or the child.

"The defendant has not caused the infant's injury but merely failed to prevent its birth," Justice Timothy Studdert wrote in a June 2002 judgment.


Right, that's my point.

Simplified, this complaint really sounds like: "I'd rather be dead." If that's that case, then it's a shame that Alexia's lawyers decided to go for a lawsuit instead of simply buying her a plane ticket to Cambodia. Oops, too late now....

Studdert also cited rulings from foreign courts, including the United States, which addressed the esoteric difficulties of putting a dollar tag on "the value of non existence" as compared to the costs of living with a disability.

"Whether it is better never to have been born at all than to have been born with even gross deficiencies is a mystery more properly to be left to the philosophers and the theologians," the New York Court of Appeals wrote in a 1986 decision rejecting a similar "wrongful life" claim. "The implications of any such proposition are staggering."


As long as our judges are citing foreign law in their decisions, it's nice that Australian judges are returning the favor.... That said, I truly admire Justice Studdert's grasp of judicial restraint. The value of life and/or death is not really a subject for the courts or litigation ... it is a philosophical and religious question. God's Word tells me that every life has meaning, no matter what challenges we may face. Consider Helen Keller, who Time named as one of the most important people of the 20th century. Would Helen Keller have had such an influence on other people if she had grown up without any disabilities? Only God can say for sure, but it seems unlikely to me.

NOTE: I am not trying to say that God causes handicaps and suffering. I do not believe that He does, because God is perfectly loving. However, I also believe that God is always looking to transform our suffering into strength and our handicaps into virtues. He's the Eternal Optimist, so to speak....

(cross-posted to Naaman the Ex-Leper)

2 Comments

NOTE: I am not trying to say that God causes handicaps and suffering. I do not believe that He does, because God is perfectly loving.

This logically implies that causing handicaps would not be the work of a perfectly loving individual.

But God is supposedly omniscient and omnipotent, too - meaning that he knows what handicaps are going to arise and can take action to prevent them if he chooses. He clearly chooses not to do so.

There's surely no important difference between causing a handicap and knowingly refusing to prevent one that could be prevented at no cost (to an infinitely powerful being). God refusing to intervene is the same in every important respect as God causing the handicaps in the first place.

Thus the failure to intervene is incompatible with being perfectly loving.

God is evil.

(Note: this is why the standard defense of "evil" in the world is not that "it's not God's fault" but that the evil is really "good, misunderstood". This defense, however, is itself vulnerable to mockery, as Voltaire so wittily demonstrated.)

But God is supposedly omniscient and omnipotent, too - meaning that he knows what handicaps are going to arise and can take action to prevent them if he chooses. He clearly chooses not to do so.

Kevin, the main problem with your argument is that you presume to know God's mind. Some handicaps could be God's will, others might not be, and we can't ever really know. God is much, much smarter than us.

Generally speaking, I don't believe that God causes handicaps or suffering. In some cases, I believe He probably does choose to challenge His people so that we might grow, but I believe that the majority of human suffering falls outside of this scope. However, I admit that I might well be wrong. God has long-ranging plans for us, and I can only see the smallest portion of what He is doing.

That said, based on my past experiences, the experiences of other believers, and my faith ... I trust Him. Whatever His plans are, I know that they'll all turn out well in the end.




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