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'Right not to be born' move curbed

PARIS, France -- A court ruling that said a severely handicapped boy had a right not to be born has been curbed by a bill approved by French lawmakers.

The ruling -- which caused widespread debate in France -- had said Nicolas Perruche, who is deaf, practically blind and severely retarded, should be compensated for his birth.

But the bill, which still needs to clear the Senate before becoming law, aims to limit the ruling made by France's highest appeals court over the sanctity of life.

The court decision had been criticised by advocates for the disabled, who said it undermined the dignity of the handicapped. Some doctors said they feared they would have to encourage pregnant women to have abortions rather than risk lawsuits.

France's National Assembly voted on Thursday to curb the court's ruling, which was twice upheld in lower courts, by adopting a bill that says "no one can sue for damages for the sole fact of their birth."

The new law, which is expected to clear the Senate on January 22, would mean disabled children would not be able to seek damages simply because they were allowed to be born.

But the plan says doctors will still be held responsible if they fail to diagnose an illness in a pregnant woman.

In November 2000, the Court of Cassation said teenager Perruche could sue his doctors because they failed to diagnose his mother's illness while she was pregnant.

Josette Perruche said she would have aborted had she known she had German measles, a viral disease that can cause birth defects in children whose mothers contract it early in their pregnancies.


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