What is wrong with 'wrongful life' cases?

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 10 (2):127-146 (1985)
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Abstract

torts raise a number of interesting and perplexing philosophical issues. In a suit for ‘wrongful life’, the plaintiff (usually an infant) brings an action (usually against a physician) claiming that some negligent action has caused the plaintiff's life, say by not informing the parents of the likely prospect that their child would be born with severe defects. The most perplexing feature of this is that the plaintiff is claiming that he would have been better off if he had never been born. A number of arguments have appeared which purport to show that ‘wrongful life’ claims should not be allowed, either because it is senseless to claim that one would be better off if one had not existed or that it is impossible to assess the extent to which someone has been damaged by being brought into existence. In our paper we rebut these arguments and suggest a procedure for determining damages in ‘wrongful life cases’. Keywords: ‘wrongful life’, ‘wrongful birth’, negligence, impaired existence, assessing damage * Professor Bell would like to express appreciation to the National Endowment for the Humanites for affording her the opportunity at an NEH Summer Seminar to do most of the background work for the preparation of this manuscript, and to the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities for funding that aided in continued work on this topic. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?

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Barry Loewer
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

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