The ascription of rights in wrongful life suits

Law and Philosophy 6 (2):149 - 165 (1987)
Wrongful life is an action brought by a defective child who sues to recover for pecuniary or emotional damages suffered as a result of being conceived or born with deformities. In such cases, plaintiff alleges that the negligence of a responsible third party,1 such as physician, hospital, or medical laboratory, is the proximate cause of plaintiff's being born or conceived and thus being compelled to suffer the debilitating effects of a deformity. The child does not sue to recover for the deformity, but rather it is claimed in such cases that the child's life is itself a wrong to the child; hence, the name wrongful life.The present essay explores how the language of rights enters into wrongful life suits and critically evaluates rights appeals in these cases. Philosophical analysis yields the result that the ascription of rights to plaintiffs in wrongful life suits entails consequences we are unwilling to accept.
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