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McKay v Essex Area Health Authority

[1982] 2 All ER 771

Case summary last updated at 19/01/2020 11:25 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case McKay v Essex Area Health Authority

 X gave birth to a disabled child and P claimed that had it not been for D’s negligence (failing to tell X that P would be dsabled) X would have aborted him. P sued for allowing his “wrongful life” i.e. allowing his birth which was a life of suffering. CA dismissed P’s appeal on the grounds that doctors were not under a duty of care to the foetus to terminate its existence if it was disabled: all they could do was give advice to the mother. Also, to allow the claim would be to strongly incentivise doctors to advise abortions, which for policy reasons (sanctity of life) was bad. Also they couldn’t allow the claim because this would require them to value “non-existence” so that they could compare it with P’s current life- impossible. Duties of care only exist where P can be compensated through measuring what has been lost: not possible here. Though the Congenital Disabilities Act didn’t apply here (the events occurred before its introduction) the effect of the act did not include cases where P had “lost the chance to not be born”. 

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