Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Texans will no longer be able to file lawsuits against physicians for wrongful birth under a bill the Senate State Affairs Committee approved unanimously. 

According to a Senate announcement, wrongful birth suits are based on an accusation that a physician withheld, either willfully or through negligence, significant knowledge from parents who otherwise might have decided to end a pregnancy, and lets them to seek damages for the cost of raising a child with genetic disabilities.

Wrongful birth claims differ from wrongful-pregnancy cases.  In wrongful-pregnancy cases, women sue doctors if they become pregnant after receiving an operation to prevent them from having children. Wrongful birth claims are not the same as wrongful-life suits.  Wrongful-life lawsuits are brought on behalf of disabled children and are not recognized in Texas.

Bill author Sen. Brandon Creighton of Conroe stated wrongful birth lawsuits deliver a message that some people are not worthy of being born because the births are denoted “wrongful.”

Children born with disabilities ought to have the same rights and value as able people.  The fear of liability might lead physicians to recommend abortion to avoid malpractice suits.

People against the bill testified that not allowing wrongful birth claims might lead to physicians against abortions to withhold information of a fetal abnormality.  By withholding knowledge, the doctors prevent parents from opting for termination.  In response to the opposition, Creighton said existing malpractice laws was adequate to prevent doctors from withholding information.  People can still sue when a doctor who does not meet the standard of care.

The bill heads to the full Senate for consideration.  Nine states have enacted bans on wrongful-birth lawsuits, including Arizona, South Dakota, and Indiana.

A representative with the Texas League of Women Voters said eliminating the wrongful birth claim is an unreasonable restriction on the constitutional right of a woman to make an informed decision about whether to have an abortion.                            

In Texas, medical malpractice attorneys state the lawsuits are rare because finding an expert witness, assessing damages and attempting to find a sympathetic jury deters an attorney from taking wrongful birth cases. According to a Texas Medical Board representative, there has been five complaints relating to wrongful birth in the past ten years.  Three complaints were dismissed.


Read the news article here.