Mississippi

Bill would stop wrongful birth lawsuits in Mississippi

State Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune, confers with Sen. Phillip Gandy, R-Waynesboro at the Capitol in 2015. She has filed a bill that would shield doctors from liability against a claim that a child shouldn’t have been born.
State Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune, confers with Sen. Phillip Gandy, R-Waynesboro at the Capitol in 2015. She has filed a bill that would shield doctors from liability against a claim that a child shouldn’t have been born. AP File

No known “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” lawsuits have been filed in Mississippi, but one lawmaker wants to make sure one is never filed.

Senate Bill 2034, filed by Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune, would shield doctors from liability against a claim that a child shouldn’t have been born.

The issue involves doctors telling parents about their child’s birth defects.

Hill’s bill says “No civil action may be commenced in any court for a claim of wrongful birth, and a person is not liable for damages in any civil action for wrongful birth 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.”

The bill also says the same applies for wrongful life claims.

Across the country, several such lawsuits have been filed. It’s unclear if any such lawsuit has been filed in Mississippi.

A Gulfport law firm advertises on its website the firm’s service in wrongful birth medical malpractice cases.

The law firm says when a person files a wrongful birth lawsuit, the allegation is that a doctor failed to inform a parent or parents of their child’s birth defects. Had the parent or parents known of the birth defects, the pregnancy may have been ended, the firm says.

In the state of Washington, a jury in 2013 awarded a couple $50 million in a wrongful birth case where their child was born with a severe birth defect. The verdict was later upheld on appeal.

Hill said she doesn’t think a doctor should be held liable for not knowing whether a child will be born with a condition.

“Every child isn’t born perfect,” Hill said.

Hill said when she did her research for the bill she couldn’t find a Mississippi case. However, she said her bill would prevent any possibility of such a case being filed in the state.

A wrongful birth lawsuit normally alleges a medical professional failed to test and inform parents of a potential birth defect prior to the child being born.

A wrongful life lawsuit is normally when a parent filed a lawsuit on behalf of a child who is severely disabled, saying the child shouldn’t have been born.

Mississippi State Medical Association spokesman Sid Scott said “Once we have read Sen. Hill’s bill and discussed it with our physicians, we will make a decision on whether we support it.”

Hill’s bill says it applies to any claim without regard to whether the child is born healthy or with a birth defect or other adverse medical condition.

Lance Stevens, a noted Jackson trial lawyer, said he hasn’t heard of such a lawsuit filed in Mississippi. Stevens said the state can pass a law to prohibit certain types of lawsuits so long as it doesn’t violate the constitution.

But Stevens says an argument could be made that the bill could deprive the due process rights of a claim on behalf of child.

“I would be surprised if this bill sees the light of the day,” Stevens said.

Hill said her bill would apply to any civil action for damages for an intentional or grossly negligent act or omission, including an act or omission that violates a criminal law.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary A Committee.

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