Wrongful Life: Definition and Meaning

The phrase "wrongful life" is also occasionally used to refer to what are more properly known as "wrongful living" claims, which contend that medical professionals failed to abide by a patient's end-of-life directive (such as a MOLST or POLST) and kept them alive longer than desired, causing unneeded and unwelcome suffering. But the confusion between the two is clear-cut and easily explicable.

Although claims for wrongful living and wrongful life occur at opposing ends of the human lifespan, they are related in that both sorts of claims ask for the same type of relief: a ruling that awards money damages for "unwanted life."

What is the Meaning of Wrongful Life?

When a doctor is sued for failing to properly prevent a child from being born, such as the result of a failed sterilisation procedure, pregnancy termination, or invitro fertilisation procedure, this is referred to as "wrongful life." Spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and other significant illnesses and disorders are examples of genetic or congenitally based illnesses for which wrongful death claims are typically sought.

The majority of the time, these injuries are detectable by ultrasound, blood tests, and amniocentesis, necessitating an instant update to the parents on the condition of their child's health and wellness from a medical specialist. These details enable the parents to make an informed decision regarding whether to keep the pregnancy going or end it.

Common Wrongful Life Claims

The majority of wrongful death lawsuits typically contain an allegation that a medical expert (such as a midwife, obstetrician, radiologist, or genetics counsellor) neglected to take one or more of the following actions, leading to the death of the patient −

  • Determine the injuries or illness of a child.

  • Describe the illness or injury to other medical professionals.

  • Inform the parents that their child has the ailment or injury in question.

It is understandable that wrongful life claims are a hotly contested area of the law, with many people holding divergent views on the matter. In wrongful life instances, several states let parents seek compensation. Due to public policy and morality-based factors, the majority of judges, however, reject these arguments. In essence, they think that a child's life is better than no life at all, regardless of their infirmities.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Life Claim

Typically, a claim for wrongful life due to a specific health care provider's mistake can only be made by the child who was born. A wrongful life lawsuit is normally brought on behalf of a child, typically by the parents or legal guardian as the kid's legal representation, as these claims are frequently made soon after a child is born. If the parents decide to file a case, they will typically choose a "wrongful life" claim.

What Sort of Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Life Claim

If a wrongful life claim is successful, the plaintiff may be entitled to compensation (referred to legally as "medical malpractice damages") for the following −

  • Payment of medical costs related to the birth defect or other birth harm

  • Costs associated with the child's illness, such as special schooling and care

  • Any additional expenses incurred because the child was born with a handicap or other medical problem.

Compensation for the child's "pain and suffering" a category of damages is typically not available in a wrongful death action.

In a Lawsuit for Wrongful Life, Who Can I be Sued

In a wrongful life civil action, nearly any medical professional (and typically their employer) could be included as a defendant. This comprises −

  • Doctors

  • Nurses

  • Genetic advisors

  • Obstetricians

  • Midwives

  • Laboratory assistants

  • Hospitals, clinics, and more healthcare facilities

The person you sue will mostly depend on their involvement in the wrongful death. Consider the scenario where a prenatal test was properly performed by a lab and its employees, but the doctor gave the patient the wrong diagnosis. In this case, you're more likely to sue the doctor than the laboratory technician. However, if the doctor correctly interpreted the test results after the lab technician incorrectly analysed that sample, the plaintiff is more likely to sue the lab technician.

Who could have the financial capacity to cover a potential settlement or trial award for medical malpractice is a major issue here. The majority of doctors will be covered by medical malpractice insurance in the event of a lawsuit. A laboratory technician, on the other hand, is unlikely to have malpractice insurance, but their company most likely does. Therefore, the plaintiff can bring a lawsuit against the laboratory technician's employer (i.e., the hospital) if the technician's error resulted in a case of wrongful death or birth.

If the plaintiff asks for more money than the medical professional has, that could be another basis to sue the medical professional's employer. Perhaps the physician's medical malpractice insurance policy expired. The policy limits might not be sufficient to adequately pay the plaintiff. In either case, the plaintiff could add more defendants who have more financial support.


Although the idea of wrongful life is not new, current changes in social attitudes and advancements in genetic and contraceptive technologies have made it more interesting. This discussion aims to evaluate how the legal concept of "wrongful life" affects the rights of women who are capable of carrying children and their offspring.

According to common law, a foetus in gestation has no existence independent of its mother; hence, an unborn kid has no rights. As a result, a child lacked any legal recourse for harm caused to them personally by another individual. The majority of early courts upheld the idea that a child had no existence as a human being during gestation, while certain early courts occasionally disagreed with this viewpoint.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. What are the wrongful acts?

Ans. A liability policy's coverage event is referred to as a "wrongful act." Usually, a "wrongful act" is described as a deed, oversight, or omission that occurs when rendering professional services.

Q2. Are there two types of death?

Ans. Heart/respiratory death and brain death are the two categories of death that can be acknowledged. In the first type of death, the heart and lungs stop functioning permanently, but in the second type, the brain stops functioning permanently.

Q3. What are deaths caused by negligence?

Ans. When someone dies as a result of the negligence of another person or organisation, this is referred to as a wrongful death. To help them recover costs related with their loved one's death, the remaining family members may file a lawsuit against the party or parties responsible.

Q4. What are the types of medical death?

Ans. Natural, accidental, suicidal, homicidal, uncertain, and pending are the classifications. All ways of death may be used, but only by medical examiners and coroners. Other certifiers must use the term "natural" or submit the case to the coroner's office. The medical examiner determines how someone died.

Q5. What are the 3 categories of death?

Ans. Clinical death happens when the brain quits functioning and the heart stops pumping blood. When the heart continues to beat and the brain's electrical activity stops, this condition is known as cortical death. A person experiences psychic death when their personality has entirely fallen apart as a result of trauma or illness.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


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