Newborn placed in the incubator

Wrongful Birth vs. Wrongful Life: What's the Difference?

Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire LLP
May 16, 2024
A medical malpractice attorney with experience in reproductive law can help families understand the difference between wrongful life and wrongful birth claims to determine the most appropriate legal course of action.

Legal matters surrounding reproductive issues can be complex and emotionally challenging. When facing circumstances where a child is born with a medical condition or disability, families may seek legal guidance to learn their rights and options. 

Two legal concepts that often arise in such situations are wrongful life and wrongful birth. Wrongful life and wrongful birth claims both involve allegations that a medical professional's negligence or misconduct resulted in the birth of a child with a medical condition or disability. However, the legal principles underlying these situations differ.

An experienced attorney can help clarify the nuances between these two legal theories and provide invaluable support to families dealing with these sensitive matters. Contact your legal team at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire online or by calling us at (619) 236-9363. Read on to learn more about the difference between wrongful life and wrongful birth claims. 

Wrongful Birth vs. Wrongful Life 

Wrongful life and wrongful birth represent two distinct legal concepts, each concerning a child born with a medical condition or disability. While they may seem similar, they fundamentally differ in their legal basis and the party filing the claim.

Additionally, both claims raise complicated legal and ethical issues and require careful consideration of the specific details involved.

Wrongful Birth Claims 

Wrongful birth claims are brought by the parents of a child who was born with a medical condition or disability. The parents allege that the medical professional failed to provide them with accurate information or options regarding the risk of having a child afflicted with health defects. Therefore, the claim argues that the healthcare provider deprived the parents of details that would have factored into their decision to terminate a pregnancy. 

Wrongful birth claims seek compensation for damages incurred by the parents due to the birth of a disabled child. These damages may include pregnancy and delivery expenses and emotional distress.

Wrongful Life Claims 

While a wrongful birth lawsuit occurs when a parent sues a healthcare provider, a wrongful life claim is brought by or on behalf of the disabled child. 

In a wrongful life claim, the plaintiff argues that had it not been for the doctor’s negligence, they would not have been born. A wrongful life lawsuit pursues compensation for the high lifetime medical costs, expenses associated with special education, and other damages attributed to their disability. 

The plaintiff may argue that if their parents knew about the risk of having a child with a particular condition, they would have chosen to end the pregnancy or take other measures to prevent the child's birth. It is important to note that wrongful life claims are relatively rare and not recognized in all jurisdictions. 

Causes of Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life

Wrongful birth and life claims often arise in cases involving allegations of medical malpractice. For example, a family may be eligible to file a claim if a healthcare provider failed to diagnose or disclose a serious genetic disorder or birth defect during prenatal testing or counseling. Lawsuits may be based on some of the following issues: 

  • ​​Errors in testing procedures or laboratory mishaps that lead to incorrect results.
  • Misinterpreting test outcomes or errors in recordkeeping.
  • Failure to detect genetic mutations or abnormalities in the fetus.
  • Overlooking hereditary conditions or traits in older children or parents.
Consulting with a seasoned attorney with experience in medical malpractice and reproductive law can help plaintiffs understand their rights and pursue the full and fair compensation they deserve for the harm they have endured. 

Contact Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire online or by calling us at (619) 236-9363. We are here to answer your questions and help you understand how a lawsuit may benefit you and your family.

Compensation in a Wrongful Life or Wrongful Birth Lawsuit

Compensation in a wrongful life or wrongful birth lawsuit is sought to address the harm suffered due to the alleged negligence or wrongful conduct of a medical professional. Wrongful life or wrongful birth lawsuits fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice claims. 

The specific types and amounts of compensation awarded can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed. 

Some common types of compensation in wrongful birth or wrongful life lawsuits include:

  • Reimbursement for medical expenses: Families may seek compensation for the medical costs associated with the birth and ongoing care of a child with a medical condition or disability. This may include prenatal care, childbirth, hospitalization, and any other ongoing care expenses.
  • Therapy and counseling: Plaintiffs may seek compensation for the cost of therapy, counseling, or mental health treatment to address the emotional and psychological effects of raising a child with special needs. 
  • Educational expenses: Children born with special needs may need additional or very specific types of education. Through a lawsuit, families may seek compensation for the cost of special education, tutoring, assistive technology, and other educational services. 
  • Loss of income: The parents of children born with disabilities may be eligible for lost wages and income. This may include time taken off work for medical appointments, therapy sessions, and caregiving responsibilities. Compensation may be available for loss of future earning capacity if the child's condition affects a parent's ability to work or earn income.
  • Pain and suffering: The family members of an injured or disabled child may be owed compensation for the emotional toll of caring for a child with a medical condition or disability. They may also recover compensation for the impact on family dynamics, social relationships, and overall quality of life.

An Attorney Can Help You File a Wrongful Birth or Wrongful Life Lawsuit

The attorneys at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire have many years of experience handling medical misdiagnosis and medical malpractice cases. We recognize the delicate nature of these cases and remain dedicated to supporting families through these challenging times. 

Contact our San Diego-based team at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire online or call (619) 236-9363. Our attorneys know how to navigate sensitive legal matters, including wrongful birth vs. wrongful life, providing guidance every step of the way.