Previous: Negligence and the duty of care

Wrongful conception, birth and life, or simply wrongful birth as I shall now refer to it, generally refers to cases where unplanned pregnancy and/or birth occurs due to a negligent sterilisation operation carried out by a medial practitioner.

Prior to McFarlane v Tayside Health Board [1999], if wrongful birth occurred, the medical practitioner (or rather vicariously, the NHS trust) could be liable to provide the entire cost of bringing up the resulting child. However, liability is now much harder to establish.

There are two claims which parents may make if wrongful birth occurs. The first is known as the mother’s claim: it refers to compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience associated with pregnancy. Secondly, the parents’ claim is a claim for the costs associated with raising a child who was wrongfully born.

The healthy child

Firstly, in McFarlane v Tayside Health Board [1999], it was ruled that NHS trusts could no longer be liable in parents claims, for a number of reasons. However, the mother’s claim was still allowed.

The disabled child

Secondly, in Parkinson v St James and Seacroft University Hospital NHS Trust [2002], it was ruled that although the parents’ claim for a healthy child should still fail; if the resulting child has a disability (which in itself may not be the fault of the medical practitioner), a claim will be allowed for the extra costs associated with raising the child due to their disability, those which go above and beyond the costs associated with bringing up a healthy child...

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