Wrongful Birth: Meaning and Elements

To raise a strong and healthy kid today, prenatal tests frequently replace the eugenic Spartan inspection practice. If the doctor falsely informs the parents that the child is healthy and the parents fail to exercise their right to an abortion, the doctor may be held accountable and may face claims of unlawful life or birth.

"Wrongful life" is a contradiction in terms because damage is assigned to "life," which has intrinsic worth and sanctity. A doctor who allegedly failed to give the proper prenatal counseling or information may be sued under the legal theory of wrongful birth by the parents of a child who was born with a congenital disease or abnormality.

Meaning of Wrongful Birth

Some common law nations recognize the legal claim of "wrongful birth," in which the parents of a congenitally ill child contend that their doctor was negligent in alerting them to the possibility that they might become pregnant or give birth to a child who has severe genetic or congenital abnormalities. The plaintiffs contend that, as a result, the defendant kept them from making an intelligent choice regarding having the kid. A form of medical malpractice is wrongful birth. It differs from wrongful life, where the infant sues the physician.

Elements of Wrongful Birth

The components of a wrongful delivery in general are −

  • There was a patient-doctor relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff

  • The doctor was negligent in failing to inform the intended parents of the possibility of having a child with a genetic or congenital illness

  • The plaintiff was harmed; and the doctor's negligence was to blame for that harm.

Patient–Doctor Relationship

By demonstrating that the doctor provided the plaintiff with a medical diagnosis or other form of medical guidance, the plaintiff must prove the existence of a patient-doctor relationship.


In a case involving wrongful birth, the litigants may argue that their harms include having a child with an undesirable abnormality or that they were prevented from being in a position to make an educated decision regarding whether to become pregnant or abort the fetus.


In a wrongful birth case, the plaintiff must show that the doctor failed to follow the standard of care with respect to the diagnosis or disclosure of the plaintiffs' risk of transmitting genetic or congenital abnormalities to their children. The plaintiffs must present expert evidence regarding the standard of care for the in-question diagnosis if the plaintiffs claim that the defendant misdiagnosed their risk of passing on a genetic disease or another abnormality. Without the help of an expert witness, lay juries lack the medical knowledge required to assess the behavior of physicians.


In the past, plaintiffs had to establish causation by demonstrating that the kid would have been healthy if the defendant had not been careless. According to this standard, the defendant may contend that even if a fetus was already present and had a genetic or developmental abnormality, she or he did not cause the abnormality to grow in the fetus, cause the parents' genes to be mutated, or cause the fetus to have the abnormality.

When an abnormality in the fetus is discovered, the doctor might not be able to fix it, which would make the abnormality unavoidable. The combination of the parents' genetic mutations and their decision to have a child most directly results in the conception of an abnormal child if the doctor fails to identify the plaintiff's risk of transmitting a genetic disease or fails to inform the plaintiff of that risk. Some judges rejected wrongful birth claims due to the challenges in establishing cause under this standard.


Nowadays, the majority of courts only permit the expenses related to raising an abnormal child, like the medical treatment that would not be required for a healthy child. Consequently, the majority of judges do not permit the recovery of all expenses related to raising the plaintiffs' child. The physical pain the wife experienced during the delivery of an unwell child, as well as mental distress and loss of consortium, have all been recognized as additional damages by some judges.



Any child's prospective parents have a right to autonomy and the right to make an educated choice regarding having children or not. Many prospective parents might be curious as to whether they run a high risk of passing on a genetic illness to their children. They might also want to know if their baby has any congenital anomalies. The potential parents are deprived of the chance to make an informed choice about having children by a doctor who fails to adequately disclose the risk that his patients might have an abnormal child or who fails to correctly identify an abnormal fetus. Given the high value that many people place on their reproductive choices and the care with which they make them, a doctor whose carelessness affects those choices should be held accountable for the results of that carelessness.


The rate of abortion, which some people believe to be unethical, may rise if the wrongful birth cause of action is permitted. A doctor has an incentive to be watchful in identifying the risk that prospective parents will have a child with a congenital disease, in disclosing any risks to the prospective parents, and in recommending different tests to identify the risk or existence of a congenital abnormality. As a result, more prospective parents will be informed that their fetuses have congenital abnormalities, giving them a valid reason to abort. Researchers have expressed worry that wrongful birth lawsuits limit rather than expand the freedom of decision-making for parents and physicians.


Conceptually, a wrongful life action and a wrongful birth action are comparable. Parents who have a kid with birth defects file a lawsuit for wrongful birth in order to recover damages. The basis for the damage claim is the expense to parents of raising an unanticipatedly defective child. Instead of seeking damages for not being born, the child in a wrongful life case does so for having been born with a birth defect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is Wrongful Adoption?

Ans. In a case involving wrongful adoption, the adoptive parents of an unhealthy child are the plaintiffs. They assert that the adoption agency failed to provide them with information that would have allowed them to make an educated choice regarding the child they should adopt, such as background information, health information, or genetic information about prospective adoptees.

Q2. What do you mean by Wrongful conception?

Ans. A vasectomy, tubal ligation, or other sterilization operation was negligently carried out, the plaintiffs contend in a case of wrongful conception, leading to an unintended pregnancy or birth. Usually, a healthy but unwanted kid results from this.

Q3. What is Wrongful Life?

Ans. A congenitally ill child may sue a physician under the legal theory of "wrongful life," contending that the child would not have been born with the condition if it weren't for the physician's carelessness. The child says that having a congenital illness at birth would have been preferable to never having been born.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


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