A mother, who said that she would have aborted her baby if she knew that he had Downs syndrome, has been awarded financial compensation from the NHS, which could amount to £200,000.
Edyta Mordel, aged 33, pursued legal action against the NHS for ‘wrongful birth’ after medical staff allegedly failed to test her unborn baby for Down’s syndrome, and so deprived her of the opportunity to end his life through abortion.
Mordel’s medical notes say she was “very upset and angry” when her son, Aleksander, was diagnosed after his birth in 2015. However, the hospital’s ultrasound reports system recorded “Down’s screening declined”, showing that Mordel had been offered a screening process, and had refused it.
Mr Justice Jay, who presided over the ‘wrongful birth’ case, has now ruled that Mordel is entitled to a damages pay-out from the NHS trust. Mordel’s lawyers have asserted that she should receive a pay-out sum larger than £200,000.
Eradicating Down’s syndrome babies
Mordel’s Barrister, Coldagh Bradley QC, said that a prenatal test would have revealed a high chance of a Down’s syndrome diagnosis.
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He said: “Miss Mordel would have been offered an abortion and her partner, Aleksander’s father, Lukasz Cieciura, agreed they would have terminated the pregnancy.”
Using an ultrasound, blood test and the mother’s age, a prenatal combination test is carried out. This determines whether an unborn child is likely to have a chromosomal abnormality such as Down’s syndrome.
Prenatal testing is commonly used to eradicate babies with Downs syndrome and other chromosomal conditions. In Iceland, almost 100% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted. Each year, on average only two babies with Down’s Syndrome are allowed to be born in Iceland.
Currently, in the UK, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. The UK’s 1967 Abortion Act also permits abortion until birth, if the unborn baby is suspected to possess to foetal anomaly such as Down’s syndrome.
SPUC Chief Executive, John Smeaton said: “The rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe has led to the pursuit for perfection, where babies with disability are being routinely targeted in the womb through a state funded eugenics programme. It is abhorrent to comprehend that this unthinkable, lethal discrimination prevails to such an extent in our nation’s health policies.”
What are wrongful birth lawsuits?
Wrongful birth lawsuits are a disturbing phenomenon that reinforce the view that the birth of a child with a disability is a harm for which one may be compensated. They also encourage the perception of the disabled as people whose existence should have been prevented.
Figures from 2017 reveal that NHS Litigation Authority paid £70 million to parents in ‘wrongful birth’ cases in five years. This huge financial liability is likely to put pressure on doctors to encourage screening rather than offer it as a neutral option. Parents who receive a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome or other conditions are already put under pressure by doctors to choose abortion. Actress and Down’s syndrome advocate Sally Phillips recently told a conference of medics that the current situation, where the attitudes of healthcare professionals towards the ‘screening’ process are intrinsically and subconsciously biased towards termination, was endorsing a form of eugenics.