Ethics v. Morality



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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36 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    There is no way – and I mean no way – that such a law would stand up against the first lawsuit brought against a physician by parents seeking damages.  This is like the no-fetus in food bill or the anti-sharia law initiative – just a thing to do for the sake of doing it and revving your base up.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      You go down the link hole, and you find this:

      Currently Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and North Carolina have wrongful birth laws. A 1994 challenge to the Pennsylvania law ended with the law being upheld by a federal appeals court; the U.S. Supreme Court declinedto hear the case. Kansas lawmakers are currently debating a measure that would allow doctors to withhold information from a mother in order to prevent an abortion and not face a malpractice suit.

      In 2011, a Florida jury awarded a couple $4.5 million in a wrongful birth lawsuit they brought against a doctor who had not told them their son would be born with one leg and no arms. The couple had said they would have sought an abortion if they knew the information.

      I have no idea if all that is correctly cited, and I don’t have time to follow it further at the moment.

      But it seems like the answer to your gut response (which was the same as mine) is, “Surprise!  You’re wrong!”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        If that’s true, I can’t wait to watch Russell explode in wrathful fury when he weighs in on this. It will be most satisfying, and will be a tonic for my bewildered brain.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        Don’t you find the implications of this on the other side disturbing at all?  Suing a doctor because, if you’d known your child was going to be born disabled, you’d have killed the child?  But now you’ve been deprived of the opportunity to kill them and are stuck with them?

        Strange how many issues in the abortion debate seem to horrify everyone who hears about them, but for utterly different reasons.Report

        • Avatar Sam says:


          Saying “disabled” doesn’t necessarily to justice to some of the conditions that children can be born with.Report

        • Avatar BSK says:

          Some children are born with an expected lifespan measured in minutes, hours, or days, with conditions that can be diagnosed early enough to terminate.

          Anyone who sues for “wrongful birth” does so because they are put into a heartwrenching position.  These are women/couples who wanted children enough that they would carry a healthy baby to term but who are not able or willing to shoulder all of the burden(s) that come with birthing the child they ultimately did.  These are not people callously wishing they could have tossed away their less-than-perfect baby nor are they necessarily wishing that they didn’t have the child they do have.  Children cost money… children with disabilities (leaving aside those described in my first paragraph) generally cost lots more money.  A woman/couple might reasonably had realized they did not have the financial stability to support the latter but could support the former; had they known, they might have opted to abort or might have taken other steps to assure the child could be properly cared for.  A wrongful birth suit is not simply an attempt to undo what was done, but could reasonably be used by parents who want to properly raise and care for their child but do not have the ability to do so and would not have undertaken the task had they known full well what would be demanded of them; the monies from the settlement can help alleviate that.Report

          • Avatar Katherine says:

            But even the phrase “wrongful birth” is a statement that a person feels the child they have shouldn’t have lived, and that the person would prefer the child didn’t live.Report

            • Avatar Sam says:

              It is possible to believe – without being a monster – that the child would have been better off never having been born. I understand the people who believe that such a thing is an impossibility, but whats to be gained from suffering?Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                Also, a wrongful birth lawsuit is not one on behalf of the child to whom it would be claimed that it would be better had she not been born. That is a wrongful life lawsuit, and is disallowed in the vast majority of states. A wrongful birth lawsuit must state that the parents have been harmed – not the child.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              or else just that a medical procedure went wrong. vasectomies don’t have a 100% success rate.Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              Well, that seems to be a colloquialism more than a legal term.  I hadn’t heard it used until this current conversation and generally see it put in quotes.  It seems a play on wrongful death.Report

            • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

              Katherine, if you see my post below, I agree with you in part. In my case, there was one sign on an ultrasound that is often associated with genetic disorders. If it is in isolation, it doesn’t mean anything. But ultrasound technicians a supposed to look for any other possible signs. The technician could probably have done more to find other issues. But she didn’t and I have my kid. And any time I even get upset about that, I remember that implies I wish my kid had not been born and I can’t get upset.

              Honestly, I could never ever think of bringing a wrongful birth lawsuit. It makes me sick in the ost visceral way to think of asserting publicly that my life would be better without my kid. I think the cases of a life not worth living are extremely few and far between. And wrongful birth suits are on behalf of the harm done to parents, anyway, not the child.

              That said, if a doctor has lied to you, I could see where you could make a wrongful birth lawsuit. I wouldn’t, but if it’s ever justified, it’s justified then.Report

              • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

                FWIW, not only would I not assert that my life is harmed from my disabled kid, I honestly believe it has benefited! Just wanted to throw that in there.Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      “But sir, how do we win the next election?”

      “Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan: we’re going to legalize fraud!”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        You’re joking, but that’s actually happening. The GOP has been slapped pretty hard by a circuit court (I think) for violating the VRA. And not once, of course. I think this is the third go’round in the courts.Report

  2. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Okay, seriously? I’ve said elsewhere that I am very very glad I didn’t have the information that my kid had serious chromosomal abnormalities. Because otherwise I might have had an abortion, and I am so in love with this fab kid and so happy he’s around and so happy because he’s happy.

    And I think this law is a disgusting paternalistic outrage.

    (And there was another wrongful birth lawsuit within the past week or so, where a chorionic villus sampling was botched at the kid was born with Down syndrome. Parents got 3 mil.)

    I’ve got a major problem with wrongful birth suits, but if it would ever be legit, it is when you are lied to.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is the part that has me currently unable to weigh in entirely on the whole deal.

      I can see a well intentioned attempt to protect a doctor from a ‘wrongful birth’ lawsuit being a motivator in cases.  I can even see it leading to confusing or perhaps unclear language… or even badly worded language that unintentionally leads to the result that you can’t sue your doctor – practically – if (s)he lies to you.

      I can also see that as intentionally put in and claims of plausible deniability.

      It doesn’t help much when I’m reading contradictory reporting where people make bipolar claims about the laws in question..Report

  3. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Whatever the seriousness of this legislation, let me say, as someone who is anti-abortion, that is is very, very wrong.Report

  4. Avatar Sam says:

    Am I wrong to think that a doctor could also lie about a pregnancy that might kill a mother, if only to prevent an abortion that would save her life?Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I can’t even imagine very many of my fellow pro-lifers are on board with this, Kyle being Example A.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      I think you may be looking at this through rose-colored glasses.  One bill being proposed, I could write that off as a whacko state legislator.  But bills passing in multiple states? It’s pretty clear there’s an appetite for this sort of thing among a segment of the GOP base, and a willingness to go along with it from most of the rest.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        If there is one thing I have learned it’s that politicians barely have any understanding of what their bases want, especially in Congress.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          I disagree with you there.  It’s definitely not the only thing they take into consideration, but I don’t think there are many people who know the political opinion of their districts better than the representatives of said districts.  It’s not perfect, and again it’s only one factor in their decision making, but the knowledge is there.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          If there is one thing I have learned it’s that politicians barely have any understanding of what their bases want, especially in Congress.

          This sorta strains credulity. You’re suggesting that the conservative base does not support the reactionary policies being proposed by the GOP for quite a while now, and yet these politicians represent the base?

          How is it that the legislatures of so many states are proposing and sometimes passing the same types of reactionary bills? Is there a conspiracy afoot? Is this just another case of liberals poisoning the well?Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Dan / Stillwater,

          I think you are looking at the dynamic wrong. You are assuming that voters drive politicians’ actions. That assumes politicians are reactionary. Increasingly these days I would suggest that politicians drive voters interests. They convince their base that they should worry about A, B or C.  I would even suggest that we, as bloggers, sort of help them.

          Think of it like the auto industry. Toyota and Honda got on top by convincing Americans what kinds of cars they wanted to drive. Detroit was still doing market research to try and figure out what Americans wanted. They were reactionary and it costed them. Politicians stay in office by firing up the base and it’s smarter to be proactive and drive issues rather than wait for the base to work up to Defcon 4 and then try to jump on the bandwagon. I think that’s what we see here.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            That’s an interesting argument, but even if you’re right, my point still stands.  One politician doing this is a crank.  For dozens of politicians in multiple states to have done this means that, in one way or another, they found it useful.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Lying about pregnancy should begin and end with “seriously, baby, you won’t”.Report

  7. Avatar greginak says:

    So when the people who focus a lot on contraception/ health care access for women/ “reproductive rights” have a bit of freak out over badmouthing from blowhards and the controversy with the Catholic Church this is the context where they are coming from.


  8. Avatar BSK says:

    Round 1? Try round 500!Report

  9. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I think this is pretty much the exact opposite of “informed consent”.

    Context matters Patrick! This is a different State in an entirely different geographical area with a radically different culture. So of course there’s a different reason why women shouldn’t be allowed to exercise their legal rights. Isn’t this just par for the course?Report

  10. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Even if this law comes about, I doubt the AMA would put up with it.Report

  11. Avatar KenB says:

    The Kansas bill is here. The relevant bit:

    New Sec. 10. (a) No civil action may be commenced in any court
    for a claim of wrongful life or wrongful birth, and no damages may be
    recovered in any civil action for any physical condition of a minor that
    existed at the time of such minor’s birth if the damages sought arise out of
    a claim that a person’s action, or omission, contributed to such minor’s
    mother not obtaining an abortion.

    The Arizona bill is similar but it does include the following:

    D. This section does not apply to any civil action for damages for an intentional or grossly negligent act or omission, including an act or omission that violates a criminal law.