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Medicine and the Law

Damages for raising an unplanned but healthy child

Loane Skene, Paul Nisselle

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Abstract

Future claims for child-rearing costs where a healthy child is born as a result of a doctor’s negligence may not be as modest as the claim discussed here.

Article Extract

The High Court of Australia held by a four to three majority in July this year that the parents of an unplanned but healthy child were entitled to damages not only for the costs associated with the birth, but also for raising the child until he was 18 years of age (Cattanach v. Melchior [2003]). Dr Cattanach was found in an earlier hearing to have been negligent in a sterilisation procedure he performed on the mother and in providing advice to her (these matters were not discussed in the High Court appeal, which was limited to the question of what damages were appropriate). The amount claimed by the parents for child rearing was modest ($105,249.33) and was in addition to an award of $103,627.39 for the undisputed costs associated with the birth (which were accepted by the defendant doctor and hospital as payable and were not an issue in the appeal).

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