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Parents compensated £70m over disabled babies they would have aborted

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The NHS has paid £70 million to parents who say they would have aborted their children if they knew they would be born with a disability, it has emerged.

Over half of the compensation went to parents who said that pre-natal screening had not shown the risk that their child would have a disability, and would have likely aborted the baby if they had known.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, told the Sunday Times that using tax money to compensate these parents "is not the mark of a civilised society and sends out the wrong signals" about how we view people with disabilities.

£40m for 'wrongful birth'

The NHS Litigation Authority made the payments for what is legally termed "wrongful birth", over the past five years.

The £70m includes £40m of costs for failed antenatal screening in 16 cases, equating to about £2.5m per family.

The remaining £30m was paid was for failure to correctly interpret ultrasounds and X-rays, failed or delayed diagnosis, and wrong diagnosis.

Multi-million pound claim

The compensation costs came to light after one mother won a part of her multi-million pound claim against the NHS. Amanda McGuinn, 38, has an 8-year-old daughter, Matilda, who is severely disabled. Matilda was born with microcephaly, an abnormally small skull.

Mrs McGuinn said that if she had known her daughter would have microcephaly, she would have had an abortion.

Abortion in the UK is illegal except under limited circumstances. But if babies are diagnosed with a disability, women are allowed to abort them up to birth.

Mrs McGuinn and her husband Paul are suing Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust for damages to cover the costs of caring for Matilda.

Last week, a High Court judge ruled that doctors had been negligent in failing to detect Matilda's abnormalities during two later pre-natal scans, and to inform the parents.

'Sends out the wrong signals'

Commented on the 'wrongful birth payouts', Andrea Williams said that the real problem lies in the way our society views the lives of the disabled.

"It is not wrongful that babies are born with disabilities," she said: "It is wrongful that taxpayers are funding a culture which sees disabled children as an inconvenience.

"To say the birth of a child is a 'harm' to an individual or family and to use taxpayers' money to compensate for the harm is unkind; it is not a mark of a civilised society. It sends out the wrong signals about how we view the lives of the disabled."

We're all Equal

A campaign to defend the lives of unborn children at risk of abortion because they have a disability was launched last October.

The 'We're All Equal' campaign seeks to raise awareness and build support for Lord Shinkwin's Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill, which had its Committee Stage in the House of Lords last week.

Lord Shinkwin's bill seeks to remove section 1(1)d from the Abortion Act 1967, which permits abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability.

Speaking in the House of Lords last week, Lord Shinkwin, who is himself disabled, said:

"People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction. If we were animals, perhaps we might qualify for protection as endangered species. But we are only human beings with disabilities, so we don't qualify."

Related Links: 
Claims over disabled babies cost NHS £70m (Times £) 
Review of impact on abortion law for disabled recommended