The Arizona Senate has okayed legislation that will let doctors lie about an unborn child’s health and escape any related “wrongful birth” suits, which has some saying the state is trying to trick expecting parents from opting for abortion.
Arizona senators have called for a law that will, if passed, eliminate malpractice suits that are brought on by families that believe doctors willingly withheld information about their unborn children. In instances across the state, some families have sued physicians after giving birth to children with disabilities and handicaps that they believe doctors were aware of before delivery. Some state residents have waged lawsuits based on allegations that physicians were not clear with crucial information which, had the parents been privy to, could have led them to consider abortion.
If the new law is passed, doctors would not be liable in these cases for failing to make clear any and all risks the unborn child faces. Specifically, Arizona Senate Bill 1359 relieves a defendant of liability for damages in a suit “based on a claim that, but for an act or omission of the defendant, a child or children would not or should not have been born.”
State Senator Nancy Barto, a Republican Party member and sponsor of the bill, says she was shocked to find that lawsuits were being lobbed by parents believed their doctors purposely didn’t disclose enough information about the risk of birth defects and disabilities. "When I first heard of this issue, I couldn't believe that these lawsuits are actually happening," Barto tells KTAR News. "That some couples, after they give birth to their child that has a disability, would claim that the child should not have been born, and would sue to get damages."
Parents have filed both “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” medical malpractice lawsuits over allegations that physicians were not clear or did not properly inform expectant couples that the children in question, while still in the womb, risked complications after birth. Parents have in the past pursued legal action for doctors they allege did not disclose information that could have caused them to abort the child, but if the Arizona bill passes, doctors who lie to parents over the health of a fetus would be free from these suits.
"The lawsuits that are being brought imply that the physician[n] is somehow at fault if the child is born with a disability," adds Senator Barto. If the bill passes, doctors would not be liable for complications after birth for failing to fully divulge on any and all information about the health of a fetus. Barto adds, however, that doctors that “intentionally or knowingly” withhold information could still be brought to court for wrongdoings.
If Senate Bill 1359 passes, doctors would also be spared from “wrongful life” suits, where undesired pregnancies are triggered following a vasectomy or other sterilization surgery that is assumed to render the patient unable to procreate. The Clinical Advisor reports that current Arizona law allows plaintiffs in these cases to sue for the costs of raising an unplanned child. Under similar verbiage, the bill reads physicians that could now be considered defendants will not be held liable “for wrongful life based on a claim that, but for an act or omission…the person bringing the action would not or should not have been born.”
Senate Bill 1359 now awaits a House vote before it moves further along in Arizona’s Congress.