France Overturns ´Right Not to Be Born´

Earlier Rulings Had Outraged Groups for the Disabled

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PARIS, JAN. 10, 2002 ( The French Parliament has voted to overturn a legal ruling that established the “right not to be born.”

The bill, passed Wednesday with the support of the government, follows three cases in which judges ruled that families whose children were born with birth defects could sue because doctors did not spot the problems during prenatal scans, BBC reported. “Nobody can claim to have been harmed simply by being born,” the bill states.

The rulings angered French disabled groups and doctors. Specialists who carry out the scans have been on strike for over a week.

By passing the bill, the government hopes to bring an end to a yearlong legal and moral controversy.

In November 2000, France´s highest court awarded damages to Nicolas Perruche, a teen-age boy born with severe mental and physical disabilities. His mother contracted rubella during the pregnancy and she argued that if doctors had correctly diagnosed the illness, she would have had an abortion. In effect, the boy sued the doctors for having been born.

Two recent similar rulings involving children with Down syndrome have reignited anger within France´s disabled community, which sees the decisions as devaluing the lives of those born with disabilities.

It has also led to growing concerns within the medical community. Doctors say that because no ultrasound scan can be totally accurate, they are under growing pressure to advise abortions, even if there is only minimal concern.

Prenatal specialists have seen their insurance premiums soar to up to 10 times their previous rates since the Perruche ruling.

Ethicists and legal specialists have also attacked the rulings. “To allow a child to be born cannot be considered as a mistake — that must be written into law,” said Laurent Aynes, a professor in civil law at Sorbonne University.

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