Fearful doctors may now recommend abortions at the smallest hint of a disability

PARIS, July 16, 2001 ( – The highest appeals court in France, the Cour de Cassation, has ruled that when doctors fail to detect deformities in unborn children and do not suggest abortion to their parents, the doctors are liable for compensation. The case was brought by the families of three children—one who has a malformation of the spine and the other two who have only one arm – who said that “if doctors had not failed to spot the disabilities in the womb the pregnancies would have been terminated.”

The court declined the children’s request for compensation because their handicaps “were not due to the fault of the physicians” and because the ultrasounds of the unborn children were not conducted until they were too old to be aborted legally. However, the court ordered the doctors to pay the children’s parents because the doctors did not screen the unborn babies for deformities and counsel the parents on abortion. In its ruling, the court wrote that “a child born handicapped may request financial compensation for prejudice resulting from his or her handicap if the handicap is in direct causal relationship with faults committed by the doctor in executing the contract formed with the mother and which prohibited the mother from exercising her choice to terminate the pregnancy.” (Kaiser quoting Le Monde)

The medical community in France reacted with horror to the decision. The BBC reports that doctors say the fear of being sued for a mis-diagnosis would encourage them to recommend abortions at the smallest hint of a disability. “The ruling means that the handicapped have no place in our society,” said Yves Richard, a lawyer representing the medical profession. “There is a real risk of this starting a process that ends with the search for the perfect child.”

See the reports by the BBC and Le Monde (in french):,5987,3226—207709-,00.html