Multiple Pregnancy: Legal and Ethical Issues

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, No, 103, pp. 270-274, 2008

U Toronto, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-03

6 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2009 Last revised: 3 Feb 2009

See all articles by Bernard Dickens

Bernard Dickens

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Rebecca J. Cook

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 14, 2009

Abstract

Multiple pregnancy is increasingly considered a complication of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ovarian stimulation for natural fertilization. Harms to fetuses, newborn and older children, mothers, families, and healthcare systems are encouraging single embryo transfer. When patients knowingly accept multiple pregnancy risks from IVF or ovarian stimulation, they are unlikely to succeed in litigation against healthcare providers for wrongful pregnancy or wrongful birth. More challenging are impaired children's claims for "wrongful life." These are unlikely to succeed against parents, but courts are ambivalent to claims against healthcare providers. Historically, courts rejected these claims, under the principle that live birth is not a legal injury. European and other courts, however, have been more sympathetic to these claims. Multiple pregnancy treated by fetal reduction is not usually found to offend abortion laws. This poses ethical concerns, however, of "lifeboat ethics," involving how fetal reduction choices are made.

Keywords: Ethics of fetal reduction, Fetal reduction, Legal liability in multiple pregnancy, Multiple pregnancy, Single embryo transfer, Twin pregnancy, Wrongful birth

JEL Classification: K10, J13, I10, I18

Suggested Citation

Dickens, Bernard and Cook, Rebecca J., Multiple Pregnancy: Legal and Ethical Issues (January 14, 2009). International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, No, 103, pp. 270-274, 2008; U Toronto, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1327998

Bernard Dickens (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-4849 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

Rebecca J. Cook

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 Queen's Park Cr.
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-4446 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

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