Well, yes, I see the legal piont but……

The figures, disclosed by Health Minister Daniel Poulter last month, show that, in the decade up to 2013, the NHS paid out more than £94 million in 164 cases of ‘wrongful births’, most of which involved parents who had disabled children after a doctor negligently failed to warn them of the risk.

But the parliamentary written answer also showed that, in the 104 such cases that have been finally settled, 40 involved the birth of perfectly healthy children – six after ‘failed terminations’, 24 after ‘failed sterilisation’, eight after a ‘failed contraceptive implant/procedure’, one following a ‘failure to diagnose pregnancy’ and one as a result of ‘inaccurate fertility advice’.


There’s something
deeply uneasy about a payment to a woman who has had a healthy child because the doctors failed to abort it.

BTW, has the law changed on this recently? Thought it was standard English law that birth of a healthy child could not be considered a damage?

28 thoughts on “Well, yes, I see the legal piont but……”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    It must make for interesting dinner table conversation:

    “Mummy, where do babies come from?”

    “Medical errors, honey. You were a big mistake that the nice doctor didn’t tell Mummy so she could have you killed. But on the positive side, we got lots of cash for the trauma of having you which we spent on a holiday to Ibiza, a matching pair of tattoos, and enough lager to sink a battleship. That’s how we ended up with your baby sister.”

    The Pope was right about this. He said children would become a commodity.

  2. What are the actual damages (in financial terms) incurred by a pregnancy? Failed abortions aside, surely the failed contraceptives would at most incur a rather cheap abortion, which surely doesn’t incur any financial loss of any significance?

  3. I’ve two reactions to this

    1. yuck

    2. children are expensive. If the NHS can’t even get a simple procedure like abortion right, they should be penalised.

    Pretty contradictory, I agree.

  4. I know someone in exactly these circumstances. Seems fair to me that they were compensated for the termination not being done. If this was a private service and it was not done you would expect some redress. In the case I know of the woman was young, not in a stable relationship and not financially independent. She didn’t get a huge sum. Her child is older now and they have a secure loving family. Also, the child does know what happened.

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    amonymous – “Her child is older now and they have a secure loving family. Also, the child does know what happened.”

    If the child knows, I doubt they have a secure and loving family. But if they do, she ought to pay the money back. The child should have been removed at birth. By definition, anyone who views their child as a penalty does not deserve to be raising said child. And if they lie, then they are not fight either.

  6. So why didn’t they put them in to care or have them adopted?

    “I can live with the guilt of aborting you but not that you were adopted and might one day come back and find me?”

  7. I sneeze,
    The going rate is (or was) £15-25k, which is for the pain and inconvenience of childbirth and pregnancy, not for ongoing maintenance costs (see link above). So if they offered the child for adoption, they’d get much the same.

  8. There is a world of difference between not wanting to have a child so having an abortion compared to going through child birth and then giving up the child for adoption.

  9. Er, the problem with all of that is that exactly 100% of the “healthy birth” cases were from people who chose to carry to term.

    Which rather demolishes the SMFS et al. view of the world as a totally cold and heartless place.

  10. BiG: “exactly 100% of the “healthy birth” cases were from people who chose to carry to term.”

    The source says 6/40 healthy births were failed terminations. Even in the best case that’s exactly 85%.

  11. Ian B

    You appear not to be able to get your head around the notion that an individual might approve of contraception but not approve of abortion.

  12. Meissen-

    I don’t understand why the State would take a person’s “disapproval of abortion” into consideration. We are told that a foetus is simply an assemblage of cells without personhood or moral consideration. Aren’t we?

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    amonymous – “There is a world of difference between not wanting to have a child so having an abortion compared to going through child birth and then giving up the child for adoption.”

    Well yes. By all means, let’s compensate women for the latter. But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about women who had a baby, traditionally seen as a gift to be treasured, and yet still want my money. It is eating your cake and having it too. If they want the cash, they are unfit parents and so should have to give up the child.

    Bloke in Germany – “Er, the problem with all of that is that exactly 100% of the “healthy birth” cases were from people who chose to carry to term.”

    Did they? Even Britain has a cut off date for abortion. In theory. Maybe they just left it too late.

    “Which rather demolishes the SMFS et al. view of the world as a totally cold and heartless place.”

    Taking cash as compensation does rather prove my point I think. Not that it is my point.

    Although I am intrigued by the inaccurate fertility advice. I suppose it couldn’t be anything so old fashioned as recommending the rhythm method?

  14. “Inaccurate fertility advice” is more likely advising someone they are not fertile and it turns out they are.

    Look at the numbers. We’ve a grand total of 164 cases in 10 years. So 16 per year, out of roughly 725,000 births result in a successful (whether in or out of court) compensation claim. That’s one in 45,000. Obviously trivial compared to the number of those 725,000 children that were unplanned (by one or both parties), or the 100% that take tax money out of your pocket.

    16 cases a year is hardly evidence of the country going to the dogs in a handbasket.

  15. So much for…why are they an unfit mother if they want the cash? They didn’t want a child and went for an abortion. Perhaps because of incompetence it didn’t work. They then have to have the child as the choice has gone. And so they claim compensation for the mistake of the procedure. At this point they are likely to have reconciled to the fact that they are having a baby and will now want it (I expect this will be the emotional response for the vast majority). And thus the money can help toward supporting that child. Perfectly conducive to now loving that child and bringing it up being loved. I think you are applying the same absolutist interpretations based on the starting circumstances , whereas in reality emotions change according to the changed circumstances and personal resolve of the parent.

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    amonymous – “At this point they are likely to have reconciled to the fact that they are having a baby and will now want it (I expect this will be the emotional response for the vast majority).”

    And so where is the harm precisely? They have a child that they love. No harm, no foul.

    “And thus the money can help toward supporting that child.”

    It can but should it? I am not being taxed to support some moppet but to pay for the damage inflicted on some woman. What damage? If no damage, what am I paying for?

  17. Inaccurate fertility advice. Acquaintance of mine’s first child is a result of going to buy the morning-after pill, answering the trained medical professional’s questions about last period date and so on, and being told she didn’t need it because there’s no way she could have got pregnant at that point in her cycle. The usual schtick with the NHS: constantly trying to ration everything to save money for hypothetical patients instead of the real one in front of you now. Compared to the cost of obstetrics, caesarian, pre-natal classes, child benefit, they saved the cost of a pill. Yay!

    Failed abortions. D&C’s have a 1-in-400 failure rate. Which is bloody high. If it were a drug, I’m pretty sure that would stop it being licensed (considering that the failures can have dangerous complications). I have no idea of the distribution of the success rate between D&Cs carried out as abortions and those carried out after missed miscarriages.

    What always strikes me about these cases is that the parents seem to be unaware of search engines. Their kids are going to grow up, Google their own names, and see their parents fighting in court for compensation for having been lumbered with them. That’s just cruel — and yes, it certainly does make you an unfit parent.

    Bison,

    Much as I tend to measure my own moral worth by how vociferously I disagree with Ian B, he’s right this time. If the state offer you an abortion and you respond with “No, I’m opposed to abortions,” fair enough. If you then follow that up with “And I demand compensation for your forcing me to have this child,” surely the taxpayer should tell you to fuck off. I suppose reasonable people could argue the details of that, but I hardly think a refusal to compensate in such circumstances is remotely deserving of mention of jackboots.

    My own local hospital, the Ulster, refuse to tell you what gender your child is after a scan, because they were sued by parents who decorated their nursery the wrong colour. These selfish bastards just fuck the system up for everyone else. And, speaking as someone for whom having children was extremely difficult, my wife & I are always somewhat offended by these spoilt brats who have a child and complain. Really, fuck those guys. They hate having kids so much, take them away and give them to someone who wants them.

  18. the NHS paid out more than £94 million in 164 cases of ‘wrongful births’, most of which involved parents who had disabled children after a doctor negligently failed to warn them of the risk.

    In other words — no matter how this gets dressed up with talk of “choice” — parents who want to exterminate disabled people. We’re paying them compensation because a disabled child slipped through their net? Fuck off.

    This was put very well by a commenter on Ben Goldacre’s blog:

    If you choose to have a baby at all, you don’t get a guarantee that they will be ‘perfect’. They could have the greatest genotype ever, and be affected by birth hypoxia or a car crash or whatever and need 24-hour care for the rest of their lives because of that, and you’d just have to deal with it. If you can’t, don’t have children at all. Deciding that loving your child is conditional on it having the right chromosomes is wrong.

    My brother is affected to the point that he’s not managed several attempts to live independently, get a degree or job. I’ll probably have to look after him when our parents aren’t able. So what? This isn’t a ‘tragedy’, it’s just life.

  19. Squander

    The claim for compensation arises as a result of a service not being provided as specified.

    There must be a great many individuals or couples who wish at any given time to avoid conception but who also object strongly to abortion and to offer these people an abortion in the wake of contraception that failed is no solution. Ian B was proposing that the State ignore such scruples – hence my reference to jackboots.

    I’ll meet you half way on the question of payment which might be problematic unless you view this purely as compensation for breach of contract rather than a contribution to the cost of a child.

  20. > There must be a great many individuals or couples who wish at any given time to avoid conception but who also object strongly to abortion and to offer these people an abortion in the wake of contraception that failed is no solution.

    Well, this is just people whining about being forced to prioritise in an imperfect world, though, isn’t it?

    An abortion obviously is a solution to the problem of an unwanted birth. And going through with the birth is a solution to the problem of not wanting an abortion. There is no third option, so what the fuck is the compensation for? Are we compensating people for living in a world in which they have to make decisions now? If so, I’ve got some backpayments I need to claim.

    And, since being offered a choice is pretty much the opposite of fascism, I still think the jackboots reference is absurd.

    Incidentally, I’m in NI, where abortion is still illegal (or, to be precise, where it’s as illegal as in the rest of the UK but the law is actually observed). We don’t have choice. I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to call that fascism, but it is surely slightly closer to fascism than having choice is.

  21. So much for…I would suggest the ‘damage’ is that the mother could not have had a child later or could not have not had a child at all. There is clearly some negative effect because the mother wanted an abortion, and didn’t get one. That doesn’t mean that they then spend the rest of their life loathing the child, or only deserve compensation if that is the case. The mother will still love the child and have had a compensatable mistake made. The two are not mutually exclusive because of the order of events in life. People still mourn the death of a first spouse for example, even if they then go on to have five children with someone else. Also, the act of having to compensate is a deterrent to making mistakes (maybe not in the Nhs though). If the person making the mistake can point to a positive outcome from their negligence and thus avoid penalty then that is not a good feedback mechanism.

  22. Out of interest, what’s the proportion of female commenters on this thread? Them being the ones who go through the pain and hassle of giving birth.

    Not sure what (if anything) flows from that question. Just curious.

  23. Luke,

    > what’s the proportion of female commenters on this thread? Them being the ones who go through the pain and hassle of giving birth.

    Women go through the physical process of giving birth. It is a fallacy to conclude from that that they’re the only ones affected.

    If, for instance, we’re discussing financial compensation for being lumbered with children, well, statistically, men pay more than women to raise them.

    amonymous,

    > Also, the act of having to compensate is a deterrent to making mistakes (maybe not in the Nhs though).

    I absolutely agree. However, is the NHS providing contraceptives with guaranteed 100% efficacy now? Unless medical science has advanced considerably while I wasn’t looking, I was under the impression such things did not exist. In which case, this is not so much the provider making a mistake as the customer not reading the label.

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