Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

What is Wrongful Pregnancy?

You've had your tubes tied, or your spouse had a vasectomy. So, "Congratulations, you're pregnant!" is something you never expected to hear again.

This exact thing happened to one Illinois mother. She didn't want any more children because both she and her husband carried the gene for sickle cell disease. The woman went to her doctor for a tubal ligation on her left fallopian tube. Her right ovary had already been removed due to a prior medical complication, so tubal ligation of her right fallopian tube was unnecessary. The doctor tied, excised, and cauterized her right tube and left the left tube untouched!

When she got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter with sickle cell disease, she sued the doctor for wrongful pregnancy.

Wrongful Pregnancy

Wrongful pregnancy is a tort claim that seeks damages for a doctor's negligent actions.

To claim wrongful pregnancy, you would have to show that a doctor had a duty to perform a sterilization procedure properly. The doctor breached that duty when he acted below the standard of care that most other doctors use. If it weren't for the doctor's breach of his duty, then you never would have gotten pregnant.

For a claim of wrongful pregnancy, you have to prove that the doctor did something egregious. Tubal ligations and vasectomies are not 100 percent effective. If the doctor had performed the medical procedure properly, and you got pregnant despite the procedure, you would not have a claim for wrongful pregnancy.

In the Illinois mother's case, the doctor acted pretty egregiously when he tied the wrong tube. Also, he didn't even realize that the tube he did tie didn't even connect to an ovary. This level of negligence would support a wrongful pregnancy claim.

Damages

In a successful wrongful pregnancy claim, compensation usually covers prenatal medical expenses, the cost of giving birth, the cost of the unsuccessful sterilization procedure, pain and suffering related to being pregnant, and lost wages.

Most states do not allow for damages to cover the cost of raising a child from a wrongful pregnancy. Courts believe that life is a benefit and not a damage. Only a few states allow for damages to cover the cost of raising a child.

Some states do allow for the extraordinary costs of raising a sick child.  To receive extraordinary costs, the parents have to show that fear of a disease is why they opted for sterilization, and the doctor knew about this fear. In the above-mentioned case, the parents knew they had a 25 percent chance of having a child with sickle cell disease, and the doctor knew that was why the mother wanted her tubes tied. This situation may warrant the award of extraordinary costs. Reports do not explain whether or not the Illinois mother won her lawsuit.

If you believe you have a wrongful pregnancy claim because your doctor was negligent, an experienced medical malpractice attorney may be able to help.

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