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October 28, 1983

Wrongful Life

Author Affiliations

From the Office of the General Counsel, American Medical Association. For further information and reprints, write to the Office of the General Counsel, American Medical Association, 535 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610.

JAMA. 1983;250(16):2209-2210. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340160089042

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DURING the last decade, the number and theories of birth-related legal claims have increased. This increase can be partially attributed to the availability of medical information and genetic and prenatal testing. Prenatal diagnosis through amniocentesis and related procedures during the first trimester of pregnancy has become common, and contraceptive and sterilization techniques have become more readily available. Further, Roe v Wade, 410 US 113 (1973), placed the decision to terminate pregnancy during the first trimester within the woman's constitutional right of privacy.

Of all the birth-related legal theories, wrongful life, an action filed on behalf of the infant born with a genetic or other congenital birth defect, has met with the most disapproval. Wrongful life is the child's cause of action. The child alleges that the physician failed to inform and advise the parents adequately concerning foreseeable fetal risks from genetic or other congenital defects. Because of this failure to