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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 15:30 GMT
Down's child paid for being born
Ultrasound scan
Doctors missed the Down's signs during the pregnancy
By James Coomarasamy in Paris

A court in France has ruled that a child with Down's syndrome is entitled to damages for having been born.

Certain judges in the high court of appeal still think it is better to be dead than disabled

Xavier Mirabel
The boy's parents had already received money for medical negligence, but the appeals court has now ordered the sum to be substantially increased.

Groups representing people with disability have expressed their anger at the decision.

The boy, who has been named only as Lionel, was born with Down's syndrome in 1995.

Five years later, a court awarded his parents damages of around $100,000, because a gynaecologist had not spotted the signs of Down's syndrome during the pregnancy.

Earlier ruling strengthened

Now, France's highest court has ruled that those damages should be substantially increased because his parents would have had an abortion had they known he would be born with a disability.

This ruling confirms another ruling made last November in the landmark case of Nicola Peruche, a teenager who was born severely disabled after doctors failed to diagnose his mother had contracted rubella.

In a highly controversial decision, which raised a whole host of ethical questions, the court decided that Nicola Peruche could sue doctors for being born.

Pressure groups outraged

The latest ruling has further outraged pressure groups that defend the rights of the disabled.

They are still trying to fight the Peruche decision in the courts and are angry that judges continue to decide that it is better to be dead than disabled.

The case has also alarmed doctors, who say the growing number of law suits is putting pressure on them to order pregnancies to be terminated, even when there is only the slightest doubt.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Health
Nose test for Down's syndrome
29 May 01 | Health
Early warning over Down's risk
21 Nov 00 | Health
Safe test for Down's syndrome
30 May 00 | Health
Down's risk 'misdiagnosed'
04 Mar 00 | Health
Test for Down's 'waste of money'
06 Feb 00 | Health
Test safer for unborn babies
01 Apr 01 | C-D
Down's syndrome
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