When Is Birth Unfair to the Child?

Hastings Center Report 24 (6):15-21 (1994)
Is it wrong to bring children who will have serious diseases and disabilities into the world? In particular, is it unfair to them ? The notion that existence itself can be an injury is the basis for a recent new tort known as "wrongful life" (Steinbock, 1986). This paper considers Feinberg's theory of harm as the basis for a claim of wrongful life, and concludes that rarely can the stringent conditions imposed by his analysis be met. Another basis for maintaining that it is morally wrong to have children under extremely adverse conditions is suggested: a principle of parental responsibility. We also argue that having children under such conditions may be unfair to the children, even if they have not been (in Feinberg's sense) harmed. Finally, we consider when conditions are sufficiently awful that having children might be viewed as incompatible with being a good parent and unfair to the child.
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