A Florida jury awarded a couple 21 million dollars for bad advice they received from a geneticist (though under state law they may only receive $200,000). The couple’s first baby had severe disabilities but the geneticist told them they would not have future children with the same problem. But the odds were actually 1 in 4 and the couple’s second child was also born with the disability. The 21 million dollars is to compensate the couple for the harm of having to raise their medically-expensive child.
From one angle of view, this itself is disquieting. The harm the legal system is recognizing is not that their child was damaged by the gene doctor’s malpractice but that the child exists at all because of it. I am comfortable saying that sex outside marriage is wrong despite the fine bastards I know–though I don’t think the illegitimate child has suffered a legal harm–so if I thought it through I could probably get over any disquiet.
But the couple’s theory was not that if given proper advice they would have tried for adoption instead. The article is unclear, but it seems either that (1) the couple was already pregnant and claimed that if the doctor had properly advised them they would have tested their child and aborted it or (2) the couple was not already pregnant and, if properly advised, would have gotten pregnant with the intention of testing their child for disabilities and aborting it if disabled. The harm they suffered is that they weren’t able to abort their child. Even people who claim to believe that a child in the womb isn’t yet a child could be troubled by this. It would be the equivalent of a married man suing on the basis that someone kept him from getting a much better wife than the one he has.
I don’t think the couple comes off too well in this, but I understand what they’re doing. When you’re trying to take care of your kid, any port in the storm. But I cannot see why the state, through its legal system, is willing to recognize not having aborted your child as a legal harm that needs compensation. Many states do, though.
Hat tip: Leon Wolf.