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MEL Seminar on “Wrongful actions? The rights and wrongs of wrongful birth and life actions”

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Message from Centre for Medical Ethics and Law

e83476ca21d85664a526e573d47b3c24Dr. Vera Lúcia Raposo
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law, University of Macau

Friday, 28 March 2014
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Room A824, 8/F, Cheng Yu Tung Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU


With modern techniques of pre-natal diagnosis it is possible to predict and detect some maladies before birth and even before conception. However, parents are not always correctly informed of the results of these exams. This lack of information may prevent mothers from exercising reproductive self-determination and may impose on the child living conditions excessively burdensome for a dignified existence

This presentation will deal with actions brought against doctors and/or hospitals by parents in their own names for “wrongful birth” or on behalf of children for “wrongful life,” arising from such incidents resulting from insufficient or incorrect information.

Since prenatal diagnoses are not always scientifically reliable, in what circumstances is it possible to identify illicit behaviour on the part of doctors? What is the expected behaviour from health professionals in such circumstances, according with leges artis, in order to increase the patient’s safety? Do doctors have duties only to parents or also to protect the unborn?  Have the child and the parents suffered  real damages caused by the medical team? If so, what kinds of damages may be compensated under the law?

These questions are not merely legal, but ethical and even moral: are we attempting merely to reduce human pain, or does prenatal testing implicate eugenics?  Is existence always of value or must we also demand a qualitative dimension to the “right to life?”  Do such legal actions represent unjustified caprice in search of utopic perfect human beings or a meaningful debate over patient safety?

Dr. Vera Lúcia Raposo is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law of Macau University. She completed her Juris Doctor in the Faculty of Law of Coimbra University, where she also received her  Master’s degree in Juridical-Political Sciences and Post-Graduation in Medical Law. She has been an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law of Coimbra University, while also working as lawyer and Of counsel in the field of medical law and health law. She is the author of several publications on medical law (medical malpractice, genetic engineering, reproductive issues, embryos’ juridical status). Her areas of interests include medical malpractice, patient’s rights and health law, reproductive rights, genetics and law, pharmaceutical law and contracts of biomedical law.

Please register online at or email Ms. Polly Yiu at  to reserve a place.

Enquiries: email at  or by phone at 3917 1845