Why wrongful birth actions are right

J Law Med. 2003 Nov;11(2):230-8.


A wrongful birth action is a claim in negligence brought by parents of a child against a doctor who has "wrongfully" caused their child to be born. These claims can be divided into two categories: those where a doctor performs a failed sterilisation procedure that leads to a healthy child being born; and those where a doctor fails to provide sufficient information to allow parents to choose to abort a handicapped child. The recent decision of the High Court of Australia in Cattanach v Melchior (2003) 77 ALJR 1312 falls into the former category. The decision to allow the parents to receive damages for the costs of raising and maintaining their child has generated much public debate. Despite the endorsement of this "wrongful birth" action, there are indications that the legislature will overturn the decision. This article examines whether there is a sound doctrinal basis for recognising wrongful birth actions.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Appendectomy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Compensation and Redress
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Male
  • Malpractice
  • Ovariectomy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Pregnancy
  • Queensland
  • Sterilization, Tubal / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Wrongful Life*