National Post

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Saturday, July 10, 1999

Children can't sue mothers for prenatal injuries

Janice Tibbetts
Southam News

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has denied a severely disabled child the right to sue his mother for injuries he suffered in a car crash before he was born, ruling that judges cannot interfere with the actions of pregnant women.

The 7-2 decision yesterday overturned a New Brunswick Court of Appeal ruling that allowed six-year-old Ryan Dobson to sue his mother, Cynthia Dobson, for being born with cerebral palsy.

For the courts to impose additional burdens upon pregnant women "would result in very extensive and unacceptable intrusions to the bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy rights of women," wrote Justice Peter Cory.

The decision effectively upholds earlier Supreme Court rulings that a foetus has no legal protection under Canadian law and the judiciary cannot impose limits on lifestyle choices of pregnant women.

Ryan was born by emergency caesarean section at 27 weeks, only hours after his mother's Chevy Spring collided with a pickup truck near Moncton in March, 1993.

The child cannot speak properly and struggles to walk on his own. He just finished his first year of school and communicates by using a computer and hand signals.

Gerald Price, Ryan's maternal grandfather, filed a lawsuit on Ryan's behalf in 1995 to obtain damages from his mother's insurance company. Mr. Price alleged his daughter was negligent in not avoiding the crash.

Family members, including Cynthia Dobson, were disappointed with yesterday's ruling because they need insurance money to help cover the high costs of raising a disabled child.

The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League praised the decision, which is in keeping with a 1997 ruling in which the court sided with a Winnipeg woman who challenged being forced into a drug-treatment program while pregnant. The judges said they had no power to control a pregnant woman's behaviour.

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