Wrongful Life

Suppose that in the future, people lose the ability to reproduce naturally. Instead they create new humans  using machines construct zygotes from raw materials.  There are, not infrequently, though not the majority of the time, errors in the genetic code of these zygotes, so people generally do a scan to check the zygote’s DNA. If a zygote is found that had an error in gene encoding, the zygote is generally discarded and a new one produced. Such errors would lead either to the zygote self-terminating, or, if it were to survive, to the production of a human being who has serious and painful disabilities.

Is it wrong to terminate these zygotes?

Suppose it were the general practice to discard such zygotes, but someone, through negligence, failed to test a series of zygotes and several were produced that had a disorder that would cause severe, untreatable spinal curvature, resulting in extreme pain and disability. The disorder would not be obvious during the first few years of life, but would become increasingly severe after age 10, resulting in complete disability and extraordinary pain by age 25. Would a person resulting from this be right in suing the negligent party for wrongful life? That is, since the alternative to being born with the disability was to not be born at all, what standing should a person have to sue over this? (Notably, such “wrongful life” suits are allowed in some, but not most, jurisdictions, so there’s no universally accepted legal standard here.)


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