Washington Law Review


The Washington Supreme Court recently recognized both wrongful birth and wrongful life causes of action in Harbeson v. Parke-Davis, Inc. The court joined a growing number of jurisdictions that grant a wrongful birth claim. In recognizing the wrongful life claim, however, the court broke with the great weight of authority. This Note briefly examines the facts of the Harbeson case. Then, in separate sections, the Note reviews the legal background for the wrongful birth and wrongful life causes of action and analyzes and criticizes the court's reasoning on each claim. The analysis and criticism of the wrongful birth claim is necessary to an evaluation of the court's recognition of both the wrongful birth and wrongful life claims since the court relied on its wrongful birth reasoning in recognizing the wrongful life claim. The Note concludes that the court did not adequately establish the crucial elements of a wrongful birth cause of action, though accepted tort principles support recognition of wrongful birth claims. It also concludes that the court did not adequately support its recognition of a wrongful life cause of action and that wrongful life claims are incompatible with accepted tort principles. The Note further concludes that accepted tort principles would have supported recovery in this case, making it unnecessary to allow the claims for wrongful birth and wrongful life. Finally, the Note suggests alternatives to tort litigation to ease the burden of birth defects on the deformed child and on the deformed child's family.

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