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Wrongful birth: Should Georgia doctors be liable?

A number of states are currently considering so-called wrongful birth laws. If enacted, these laws would prohibit parents from bringing claims against doctors who fail to warn them about fetal health problems with their unborn children.

As it stands, most states have laws that allow parents to sue for negligence if doctors fail to provide certain information about the health or condition of a fetus. Claims may also include failure to screen for disabilities or birth defects. These claims act just like regular medical malpractice claims against a negligent doctor or hospital but come with the added complication of a yet-unborn patient.

A handful of states have laws in place that prevent and ban these claims. Increasingly more and more states are considering following suit. Georgia is one of the states that passed a law banning such claims against doctors.

Parents trust doctors to tell the truth regarding the condition of their baby, even if it is unpleasant news. Parents can then use this information to make treatment decisions and to make the necessary preparations to raise a child with a disability or health issues.

Suits of this nature are rare but it is still an important issue. Bans against lawsuits may set a dangerous precedent that doctors don't always have to tell patients the truth or the entire story. If doctors start to pick and choose what information to share with patients, it may lead to riskier births and unprepared families. Some believe that the bans may actually allow a doctor to lie about the result of certain prenatal screenings or simply not perform the screenings at all.

Failures of this nature directly divert from the normal standard of care that is central to medical malpractice claims.

Source: PBA.org, "Should Parents Be Able To Sue For 'Wrongful Birth'?," Kathy Lohr, May 15, 2012

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