Figures reveal average payout for a 'wrongful birth' is close to half a million
Women whose babies have survived abortions are receiving huge compensation payments after suing the NHS for “wrongful births”.
Six babies have grown into healthy children after surviving attempts to abort them, government figures have shown, while one other child survived the procedure but with brain damage.
Their parents, however, have been heavily compensated for the wrongful births of their children after they sued the NHS for negligence.
The seven cases were among 104 settled claims for wrongful birth between 2003 and 2013, and represent 6.73 per cent of the total.
Although Department of Health figures did not specify how much each of the successful complainants has received, they showed that the average damages payment for a wrongful birth was £473,000.
Sixty successful claims have yet to be fully concluded but the total paid by the NHS in all the cases has already reached more than £95 million.
Of this, nearly £78 million has been paid in damages and more than £18 million has been spent on legal costs, including those incurred by the NHS in defending some 83 claims that were unsuccessful.
Of the 104 cases that have been fully settled, the majority – 51.9 per cent – involved parents who sued after giving birth to babies with disabilities or illnesses.
They took action on the basis that they would have aborted their children if their conditions had been picked up by pre-natal tests.
The cases include eight babies born with Down’s syndrome, three with cerebral palsy, one with HIV, four with cystic fibrosis and three with spina bifida. A quarter of wrongful birth claims arose from failed contraceptive implants and sterilisations.
The figures were disclosed by Dr Daniel Poulter, the Conservative Health Minister, in answer to a question by Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside.
This week politicians and campaigners reacted in horror at the scale of the payments, saying they reinforced prejudices against the disabled and rewarded people who had sought to abort their children.
Professor Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of Life, the pro-life counselling charity, said: “If we ever doubted our society is a sick society surely this is the final evidence.
“That people should be seeking damages for having been granted the great gift of life is simply shocking. It is the ultimate selfishness. They should not be asking for compensation but for forgiveness.”
Crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, the veteran pro-life campaigner, said: “The birth of any child is not something to compensate it is something to celebrate.”
He said: “An NHS which is starved of resources should not be paying out money to people in these circumstances.
“The money should be used to treat people with life-threatening diseases. That’s what is so extraordinary about this and ministers need to explain what they are doing by sanctioning these payments.”
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick of Not Dead Yet UK, a network of disabled people campaigning against euthanasia, said that the policy represented the “rankest form of disability discrimination that was possible”.
“It reinforces the view that disabled people have lives not worth living,” he said.
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton and chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said the scale of the compensation claims showed the need to tighten up the country’s abortion laws.
She said: “When you lift the lid on the culture of abortion in the country, this is what it looks like: people trying to sue the Government for failing to end the lives of their healthy unborn children. Today, in 21st century Britain, where the NHS is under incredible strain, it is possible to win compensation if the Government fails to end the life of your disabled or healthy child in the womb. People baulk when it is said that we are a eugenic society. But what else is this? How deep to we have to descend before the Government addresses the need to reform our abortion laws?”
Pro-life MPs are planning to table further parliamentary questions to determine if the failed abortions were late in pregnancy because this would raise further questions about the viability of the foetus and add impetus to efforts to lower the upper time limit for abortions from 24 weeks.
Katherine O’Brien, spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest private provider of abortions in the UK, said she thought it was “extremely unlikely” that the failed terminations were attempted late-term abortions.
She said: “These are most likely the result of failed early medical abortions, which carry a failure rate of between 0.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent, or failed early surgical abortions, which carry a failure rate of less than one per cent. Both early medical and early surgical abortions occur within the first trimester.”
She added: “In terms of compensation, we would hope that these would be considered on a case by case basis and that the amount awarded would reflect the individual circumstances.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It’s right patients get compensation for clinical negligence. The best way to reduce compensation claims is to improve patient care and safety.”