Tag: wrongful life

Bioethics Blogs

The non-identity problem of professional philosophers

By Charles Foster

Philosophers have a non-identity problem. It is that they are not identified as relevant by the courts. This, in an age where funding and preferment are often linked to engagement with the non-academic world, is a worry.

This irrelevance was brutally demonstrated in an English Court of Appeal case,  (‘the CICA case’) the facts of which were a tragic illustration of the non-identity problem.

M (‘the mother’) was raped repeatedly by her father. She gave birth to Y, who, because of the incest, suffered from a serious genetic disorder. Y claimed compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. She was not entitled to compensation, said the Court of Appeal.

Why?

The President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Sir Brian Leveson said:

I would construe the 2008 Scheme to mean that the victim of the crime of violence in this case could only be M (with the result that she was entitled to receive compensation for the personal consequences to her of her father’s actions). To suggest that Y, who had not been conceived at the time of the crime, was himself a victim of crime (the nature of the crime involved being difficult to discern) or that it is possible to assess compensation on the postulate that Y would otherwise have been born without disability and so should be compensated for the genetic disorder from which he suffers is to go beyond that which the Scheme was seeking to cover.’1

He cited with approval2 the following passage from a Scottish case (Millar (Curator Bonis to AP) v Criminal Injuries Compensation Board)3, which was concerned with materially identical facts:

‘It appears to me that the concept of injury, in the context of a situation in which compensation for it must be assessed, presupposes a pre-injury state which is capable of assessment and comparison with the post-injury state.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life August 24, 2015 At present, wrongful life suits should be r…

August 24, 2015

by Bonnie Steinbock, Bioethics Program Faculty

Yesenia Pacheco, a mother of two from Seattle, Washington, decided that her family was complete, and that she did not want any more children. To ensure that she would not have an unwanted pregnancy, she sought medical advice from NeighborCare Health, a federally funded health clinic, about her birth control options. The clinic gave her an injection of Depo-Provera, an extremely reliable long-acting contraceptive method, which must be repeated every three months.

Ms. Pacheco duly scheduled subsequent injections at three-month intervals. But during one of those visits, she was not injected with Depo-Provera, but instead was given a flu shot.  Apparently, the clinic did not record in Ms. Pacheco’s chart that she was supposed to be given a Depo-Provera shot, nor did they get her informed consent for a flu shot, minimal requirements for responsible medical practice. Ms. Pacheco only learned what had occurred when she attempted to schedule her next Depo-Provera injection.  By that time, she was two and half months pregnant.

The clinic informed her that she would not have to have the child, that it would provide her with an abortion at no cost. Ms. Pacheco refused, because of religious objections to abortion. She gave birth to a daughter, Sandra, now aged 3, who has a genetic brain disorder, known as polymicrogyria (PMG). The condition produces symptoms that range from mild to severe, depending on how much of the brain is affected. Sandra’s motor and language skills, attention span, and cognitive functions have been impaired.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Foetal alcohol syndrome, compensation and harm

A case currently before the UK Court of Appeal could have far-reaching implications for mothers who drink during pregnancy.  Lawyers for a seven-year-old child with foetal alcohol syndrome caused by her mother’s heavy drinking, argue she should receive compensation from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority as she has been the victim of a crime.

One relevant consideration to this case could be the nature of the harm suffered by individuals with foetal alcohol syndrome. Foetal alcohol syndrome is at the severe end of a continuum of disorders that are caused by in-utero exposure to alcohol, collectively known as foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FASD cause impairments including developmental delays, difficulty hearing, problems with vision, learning problems, language and speech deficits, impulsiveness, a short attention span and difficulties making rational decisions. Intuitively, then, it seems children with FASD have been harmed in an obvious way by their mother’s drinking. A recent article puts it this way:

The child born with FAS or FASD is arguably deprived of a right to an open future because of harm suffered as a consequence of maternal behaviours…..It seems logical and morally appropriate to afford some protection to the future welfare of the child who will be born. If children could be given the option to exist with or without the consequences of FAS, it is likely they would choose the latter.”

However this picture could be challenged. It is not immediately clear that children with FASD could ever be given “the option to exist with or without the consequences” of FASD.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.