French gov't rejects ‘right not to be born'
The French Parliament passed a government bill aimed at reversing a Supreme Court decision which has been slammed for creating a "right not to be born." The decision will not however change very much in the way of doctors' fears of being sued by parents whose children are born disabled. In early Dec., France's highest appeals court ruled that children born with disabilities could sue doctors for not having detected their disabilities while in the womb, and thus not enabling their mothers to abort them.
Xavier Mirabel, of France's Collective against Handiphobia, said the bizarre ruling was related to the judges' discrimination against the handicapped. "Certain judges still believe that it is better to be dead than to be handicapped." he said.
Following the ruling top prenatal doctors in France commenced a strike refusing to carry out any ultrasounds or other tests that can show whether an unborn child has any abnormalities. The government was thus forced to act on the emergency legislation. The new law says that failure to detect a disability in the womb can lead to damages, but only if it is the result of a "blatant error" on the part of a doctor – and then only the parents, not the child him or herself, qualify.
Even the wrongful birth suits which continue to be permitted under the new law are cause for alarm. Last year, during the French debates over both types of lawsuits, doctors said the fear of being sued for a misdiagnosis would encourage them to recommend abortions at the smallest hint of a disability. "The ruling means that the handicapped have no place in our society," said Yves Richard, a lawyer representing the medical profession. "There is a real risk of this starting a process that ends with the search for the perfect child."