The state Supreme Court threw out a "wrongful life" lawsuit that claimed a doctor failed to tell a pregnant woman about her son's severe birth defect. Jennie Willis contended she...
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The state Supreme Court threw out a “wrongful life” lawsuit that claimed a doctor failed to tell a pregnant woman about her son’s severe birth defect.
Jennie Willis contended she would have had a legal abortion had she known when she was pregnant that most of the fetus’s brain was missing, said her lawyer, O. Fayrell Furr Jr. The lawsuit was filed by Willis on behalf of her now 8-year-old son.
In a unanimous ruling Monday, South Carolina’s high court said it recognizes the severe nature of the boy’s condition, but it could not accept the wrongful birth claim.
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“Even a jury collectively imbued with the wisdom of Solomon would be unable to weigh the fact of being born with a defective condition against the fact of not being born at all,” Associate Justice E.C. Burnett wrote. “It is simply beyond the human experience.”
Furr had argued that the boy “has enough brain tissue to keep him alive but not enough to know his mother exists. … She would not want her child to … live that existence.”
South Carolina joins 27 other states that either reject or limit the “wrongful life” claim, the court said. Washington, California and New Jersey allow such claims; other states have not addressed the issue.
In her lawsuit, Willis argued that her obstetrician, Dr. Donald S. Wu, failed to tell her about the birth defect before the deadline to have a legal abortion.
Wu disputed that, saying in court papers that he informed Willis of a potential problem. He said she refused to undergo a test by a specialist, even after another exam showed her son “lacked any significant brain.”
Willis had appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower-court judge ruled in the doctor’s favor.