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South Carolina Supreme Court Finds No Claim For Wrongful Life Exists In State


HLD, v. 33, n. 2 (February 2005)

South Carolina Supreme Court Finds No Claim For Wrongful Life Exists In State

          Jennie Willis brought a wrongful life claim on behalf of her son who was born with severe disabilities. Willis claimed her physician failed to adequately diagnose her son's condition using prenatal testing that would have allowed her to terminate her pregnancy while legally allowed to do so. The trial court granted the physician's motion for summary judgment, holding that South Carolina does not recognize a claim for wrongful life.

          The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. The high court noted that while, "a viable fetus harmed in utero by the act or omission of another . . . may seek damages from the negligent tortfeasor" wrongful life actions differ because the healthcare provider did not cause the impairment here. The high court also noted that twenty-seven states have either refused to recognize or have a limited wrongful life action. According to the high court, other courts have reasoned that (1) being born is not a legally cognizable injury, and (2) the physician did not actually cause the impairment.

          Courts that have adopted a wrongful life action generally find that the negligent party has deprived the child of the "fundamental right of a child to be born as a whole, functional human being . . . ."

          The high court decided to embrace the reasoning of the majority of courts that do not recognize a claim for wrongful life and therefore affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment to the physician.

          Willis v. Wu, No. 25915, 2004 WL 2933554 (S.C. Dec. 20 2004). To read the case, go to

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