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Pennsylvania Superior Court Finds Statute Banning Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life Actions Unconstitutional

In an opinion authored on November 14, 2012, a three-judge panel unanimously found that the statute banning wrongful birth and wrongful life actions in Pennsylvania (42 Pa.C.S.A. §8305) was enacted unconstitutionally. 

Generally, wrongful birth is a claim made by the parents of a child born with birth defects, wherein the parents allege that the healthcare provider failed to warn them about the defects.  Wrongful life, on the other hand, is a claim made by the child for failing to prevent the birth. 

According to the panel, section 8305 violated the “single-subject rule” contained in Article III, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that all provisions in a bill assist in carrying out a bill’s main objective or are otherwise germane to the bill’s subject.  Section 8305 was signed into law as Act 47 of 1988.  The panel examined the final version of that bill  and concluded that the majority of the provisions related to post-trial matters in criminal cases.  The panel therefore found that all provisions contained in Act 47 not related to post-trial matters in criminal cases, including section 8305, violated the “single-subject rule” and was enacted unconstitutionally.    

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