Mother Of Unborn Child Sues For Wrongful Death

Birth Injury, Wrongful Death

A pregnant woman brought an action against three physicians for the death of her unborn child under Alabama’s wrongful death statute. The court held that “parents of unborn children can sue doctors for wrongful death, whether or not the fetus was able to survive outside the woman’s uterus,”

Alabama woman, Amy Hamilton visited the doctor to undergo a routine ultrasound and to ask about a viral infection. Neither the physician nor the technician who was to perform her ultrasound was available so she was asked to wait until her next scheduled appointment; two weeks later.

After visiting the officer on multiple occasions, Amy finally received an ultrasound one month later. The ultrasound revealed that the fetus was abnormally small and may have hydrops (accumulation of liquid) on the back of its neck.

At this point Amy rightfully asked to see a specialist, as she was concerned about the condition of her unborn child. The physicians refused to refer her to a specialist and reportedly asked her to wait and see if the condition would resolve.

Amy visited the doctor not too long thereafter and reported that she was not feeling well. At this point the ultrasonography showed the fetus was dead; labor was induced and Amy delivered a stillborn boy.

The defendant’s requested that the court dismiss the action stating that the plaintiff did not state a valid claim, with which the lower court agreed. However, on appeal, the high court of Alabama found that permitting, “civil claims for the death of nonviable children is consistent with [state] criminal law.” The court based its reasoning on state law that allows a defendants to be charged with two deaths if they kill a pregnant woman.

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